I once worked with just such an executive. He spoke with a soft, quiet voice. He never interrupted anyone when they were speaking. When he walked into the meeting he had a “nice” word for everyone. Every time the team became “positively frustrated” and ready to make the change necessary to get to the next level he would stand up and say sweetly, “Oh, I just wanted to remind you all of how far we have come.” And after a few more sentences the spark of aspiration was gone from the room. He unintentionally signaled the status quo was plenty good enough. There was no need to try harder or change how things were going. He reminded me of what Jim Hacker (the fictional politician in the English cult classic “Yes, Minister”) said to his bureaucratic colleague, “You really are a wet blanket, Humphrey, you just go around stirring up apathy.”
These nice but somewhat absentee managers can continue to survive, unchecked for decades. At least a controlling boss who yells all the time gets noticed: they create acute pain and people complain. In contrast, the pain these nice “Neutralizers” produce is chronic. The pain is inflicted slowly, drip by drip.