It is said that people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses. If you have been employed anywhere for very long, chances are you have had a bad boss or two. But why is that? Is it as Lord Acton so famously quoted that, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Or is it something else?
I think it’s worth some time to think about because eventually we all will lead someone, and the Apostle Paul tells us that it is a good thing. So if we are going to be leaders, bosses, parents, or people of influence, how do we avoid being bad ones? Like anything else, I think we need to look at common issues and the character traits that we can develop to counteract them.
5 Bad Bosses and How to Avoid Becoming One
The manipulator often has the best of intentions. They have high hopes that something great can happen, and they are willing to adjust the truth a little to make sure it does. While calling these leaders out and out liars may be a little strong, it’s not really too far off. Sometimes they stay truthful, but really work the emotions. They share a story of their broken past, or the unfairness of their situation, and tend to guilt people into doing things for them by using their compassion against them. While these methods may prove to be effective in the short term, people who work under manipulators long enough eventually lose all trust and feel like they have to constantly filter everything their leader says.
The problem with this is that as a leader you absolutely do need to influence, or even sell others, on different ideas from time to time. There are time when you need to lead other people to do things they don’t want to do, go places they don’t want to, and to reach for goals they have yet to achieve and that can be difficult. There are ways to do that that don’t include manipulation though.
Value to embrace: Honesty.
Honesty is a leader’s most valuable and most valued leadership quality; it serves as the gateway for trust and inspiration.
Keep your optimism. Don’t lose your desire to lead others into waters they have yet to tread, but put it all out there on the table. Be real. Be truthful. Be honest. Of course be tactful and personable in all of that and then, let the chips fall as they may. Without this character trait the people you lead will not trust you and when you need them most, they won’t be there. If you are upfront and honest with them however, they will understand the necessity of that action and will follow your leadership because of the bond of trust you have established.
The micromanager tries to control everything. Every tiny decision, every detail, of every process needs to go through them. The issue with most micromanagers when you get down to it, is that they don’t trust anyone. The overarching message that this sends to everyone is, “No one can do it as well as the Boss,” which then creates the corresponding behavior that says “so why even try?” Micromanagers tend to create the bottlenecks that prevent growth, innovation, and the further development of individuals on the team.
Of course the reality is that you are ultimately responsible for everything the team does, as the leader your name is on the line. But before anything is produced by the team, you are responsible for the team. If the people you hired or acquired aren’t capable of doing an adequate job, why did you put them on your team or give them responsibility in the first place?
Value to embrace: Trust
“Trust each other again and again. When the trust level gets high enough, people transcend apparent limits, discovering new and awesome abilities of which they were previously unaware.”
Yes it can be a big deal to trust someone who has made mistakes in the past, or who isn’t proven in an area, but if you can’t trust them then why are they still on your team? You wouldn’t have hired them if you didn’t think they could do the job, so trust them to do it and then reward their success. Extending trust builds confidence. It says to your employee, co-worker, or kid that you believe in them and trust their ability to get the job done. On this foundation you can build amazing leaders to help take your organization to the next level.
This is a leader none of us want to work for. The megalomaniac is often obsessed with their own power or importance. In light cases you might think of Micheal from The Office, and in the worst cases you might think of Hitler.
“The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history.”
– Bertrand Russell
The desire for leadership and power can be a good thing, and it can also turn good men and women into lesser versions of what God intended for them to be. To be fair men like Napoleon and Steve Jobs accomplished a lot and both did some very positive things. They also became famous for a destructive tenacity that left people broken along they way. I believe we can be better than that.
Value to embrace: Humility
“True humility is intelligent self respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. It makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come short of what we can be.”
-Ralph W. Sockman
False humility doesn’t do anyone much good, but confident humility based on an accurate self estimation, with a bent towards optimism, will help you stand against critics as well as learn from correction. We don’t need to buy our own hype or to discount others praise completely. True humility seeks an honest appraisal of both.
The Moving Target
The moving target is frustrating because what they want and what they need changes so often. Anytime our expectations aren’t met, frustration ensues. Leaders who have moving targets as expectations tend to always be frustrated with their people because it seems that they can’t get it right. The reason they can’t get it right is because the desired result changes so much of the time. Change in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, and is necessary for organizations to grow, but change without communication is always a plan for disaster. The moving target tends to decide on a new direction too quickly and then abandons that new course of action just the same. This can only infuriate those who are trying to meet their expectations. So what’s a leader to do?
Value to embrace: Clarity
Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.
Most moving targets move because the desired outcomes were never clearly defined. As leaders. our teams need us to define the win and to plot a game plan that leads us to victory. When we do that, we have to be sure that we clearly define and communicate those things to our teams to enable them to use their talent, skill, and abilities to take us there. Clarity takes time, but it is well worth it!
A missing leader is someone who has checked out of leadership but retains enough authority to prevent someone else from filling that role. They aren’t there to help with the day to day tasks of running the organization, so they force others to make those calls, and they often do so in the dark fearing what may happen if they make the wrong decision. This happens all the time and as an accountant friend of mine once told me, is how great businesses die or get stolen. Employees who are willing to stay loyal to such leaders are often there because the job is more than a job to them, it is a calling. The Missing leader takes advantage of and devalues these priceless people by denying them the leadership and vision they need to fulfill that call.
Value to embrace: Integrity
“In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”
-President Harry Truman
If you are a leader you have been granted an enormous opportunity to influence and affect the world we live in for the good. This is true no matter what role you have been given, or what level you lead. You have been entrusted with influence and authority that can directly impact and improve the lives around you. Don’t squander that! Yes it can be a huge task, but you were selected for a reason, you were entrusted for a purpose, don’t let those chances slide by. Stand strong in your position and lead like you can. It will make a difference that you need to see.
Of course there are other types of bad bosses out there, and other character traits we all need to work on. I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below. Leadership is essential, and while none of us have arrived, we can all continue to grow into the leader the world needs us to be.