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How to be an awful boss in three simple steps

I’ve written about this before, you know the awful boss. I find myself contemplating the bad boss syndrome every now and again. I think this is due to having both worked for terrible bosses and probably being one a time or two in my career. My passion of course is positive leadership and I focus a great deal of my energy on the culture and climate of my organization. But with that said, it can be easy for the average boss to fall into a few traps that make them ‘awful boss’.

Awful boss tip #1 – you earned your way into this role, so you do know more than those around you.  WRONG!

  • Sure, nobody ends up in a position without having earned the right to be there. Typically a lot of hard work goes into getting promoted, increasing your knowledge, your skill set, your network, not to mention the time invested. But that doesn’t mean that you know more than others or that only you can have the ‘right idea’. Great leaders have a knack for listening to those around them while planting seeds of their ideas rather than trying to drive them home in a group. If you are great leader, chance are you hired a lot of those in your leadership team or have invested in them during your time at the helm. Trust them and give them a chance to flourish. Their victories become your victories.

Awful boss tip #2 – mistakes were meant to be punished, nobody will respect me if I don’t lay down the law – YIKES!

  • Yeah, I worked for this boss once too. Truth is, if you spend your time looking for mistakes you will in fact find them. But that isn’t the point of leadership. Great leaders work to develop a culture in which everyone feels comfortable with taking risk and embracing failure as learning. I once worked for someone who kept a rather impressive file of letters of reprimand, documentation of past ‘transgressions’ against her iron-fisted domain. The sad thing was, for a period of time I began thinking like her and believing the only way to get people where I needed them was to take action against those who failed or made mistakes. I view mistakes in a totally different light now, I guess thanks to her. (she told me I’d thank her one day)

Awful boss tip #3 – keep yourself at a distance from those you lead, it’s lonely at the top – NO…

  • This is a tough one for me and one I continue to work on personally. This is an old adage that in essence states that you can’t have a personal relationship with those ‘beneath your station’. I disagree with this phrase, mostly because it’s simply not true. I do believe you have to be careful mixing your personal and professional lives but people want to follow someone they know, trust, and care about as opposed to some cold, stand-offish person. Be smart with your personal relationships with employees but show them you are human. It is ok to be a little vulnerable – it just might increase trust and willingness to follow you when times get tough.

The point of today’s post is simply this – you can be an awful boss if you want to. I’ve given you some of the blueprint right here. However, if you want to be a great leader you’ll need to always be mindful of your behaviors, actions, and most importantly how everything you do impacts those around you.

– look for more in the coming months and for my upcoming book – The Leaders Guide to Climate & Culture

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