We’ve all worked for terrible leaders. The bosses who made us want to quit. The manager who forced us to rethink our entire life plan. The supervisor who drove us insane and caused an emotional breakdown.
I remember one leader that I worked for whom I would definitely call terrible. In the words of Charles Barkley – he was “turrible.” I didn’t want to work when he was working. I was filled with anxiety on the way to work, unsure of what he was going to do and how he was going to make me feel. He was mean, sarcastic, and only cared about himself and how he looked.
Have you worked for this guy, too?
And, as much as I want to totally bash this guy . . . I have to admit that being a leader, at any level, is hard. It’s full of ups and downs, uncertainty, and unpredictable people. Because leading is so hard, it can put us in a position where we can seem terrible ourselves.
I’m sure you’re like me – you don’t want to be known as the terrible leader either. It can happen quickly and without warning. But I’ve found that there are three traits that are found, most of the time, in terrible leaders. They may not have all three . . . in fact, just having one of these is enough to make a terrible leader.
So, take inventory…are any of these true about you? Let’s dig in:
1. Be Selfish.
When you’re selfish . . . or have selfish motives . . . no one else matters. You are only concerned about how you are perceived and anything that would make others think negatively of you can be an opportunity for you to take action that’s not in the best interest of the organization or those around you.
Selfishness is a lie that promises power and success but actually leaves you empty and isolated. Instead, a thriving leader should choose to serve others rather than to look out for his/her own best interests. Serving others is also the antidote for selfishness – when you serve others regularly, you will begin to see your own selfish tendencies disappear.
So, whom can you serve today?
2. Be Prideful.
A terrible leader thinks that their ideas and their decisions are absolute and without error. Perfection is at the root of pridefulness. A prideful person has somehow begun to believe that they’re better than everyone else and that no one can do it better than they can. When you work for a prideful leader, they tend to micromanage you and struggle to give up control to others.
When a leader is marked by pride, he/she is typically not a good listener and often does not ask for input on decisions. They can be a dictator in the way they lead others, and they don’t leave space for their own mistakes. In fact, mistakes by a prideful leader are blamed on others and are never the leader’s fault. The best way to identify and overcome pride is getting feedback from others. Pride can be difficult to assess in yourself, but I guarantee that others see it – so ask them! Whom can you ask for feedback about your leadership this week?
3. Be Lazy.
A lazy leader can be the most discouraging one to work with and for. This person is really good at delegating . . . but not in a way that helps to create a cohesive team. They disappear when things get busy. You can’t find them when you need them most. The lazy leader does not lead by example and instructs others through a “do as I say not as I do” posture.
Laziness can often stem from an entitlement mentality. If I feel entitled to an easy life or if I feel like I’ve moved too far up the ladder of success to do THAT, then it’s easy to be and get lazy. But, when I understand that I’m a better and more respected leader when I jump in and work alongside those on my team, I can ask people to do more than I could otherwise. The best way to overcome laziness is to be involved in the hard things. What’s hard right now in your organization that you could jump in and help with? It’ll make a difference, I’m sure of it!
No one wants to be the terrible leader . . . but we can all find ourselves there very easily. So, be self-aware enough to recognize the early signs in your own leadership. These three traits will help you see the danger signs and then combat them so that you can be a great leader and so that your organization can experience success.
Which of these three traits do you see in your own leadership or in the leadership of those with whom you serve and work? What’s one step you can take this week to avoid being a terrible leader?