3 leadership lessons learnt from bad managers

leadership lessons
Never forget those bad leadership lessons

Everybody has had a “worst job ever”. You drag yourself out of bed every morning and wonder what the day has in store for you. Then you wonder why the hell you’re still there.

Well, the reason you are there, my dear reader, is to learn some leadership lessons!

Given that many people leave jobs because of problems with their boss, it makes sense that when you are in the middle of your Worst Job Ever (WJE), leadership is a major problem.

Sometimes after you’ve left the job, you start to see things clearly and you can analyse what went wrong.

Bad leaders teach you the best leadership lessons

If nothing else, working for or with a bad leader can teach you what not to do if you are in the same position. It can teach you what doesn’t work, so you can do better.

Here are three leadership lessons I learned from my worst job ever.

Leadership Lesson #1 – You are a role model for your team. They will follow your lead.

In one role, I noticed that some leaders within the company considered themselves to be better than managers in other areas. They thought they knew everything, when in reality they clearly didn’t. Instead of listening, learning and adapting to new ways of doing things, these leaders picked a direction and went that way because they knew best. It didn’t work.

Quickly, the teams below these leaders adopted the same approach and attitude. It was a big effort to stop this behaviour, because the leadership was reinforcing it all the time.

Be careful what you say and do, because people you are leading might just start doing the same.

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Leadership Lesson #2 – Act fast to fix bad performance

In another role, some team members attracted complaints from a wide range of people because they were ineffective and disruptive.

Several times, these people were under fire , but were shielded by their own boss, who took a few bullets defending them. One poor performer was in the team for three years, before they decided to let him go.

If you are in charge of somebody who is damaging the team, you need to act swiftly. If they aren’t helping you, they are hurting you. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the poor performer is a terrible person, they may just be a terrible fit for the team.

As soon as you work out that they are underperforming, either help them, move them into a role where they can perform better, or let them go. Whatever you do, don’t let things stay the same.

Leadership Lesson #3 – You don’t need to be right every time

Sometimes it’s good to admit that you don’t know something, no matter how long you have been a leader. Being able to take advice from others is a key path to success, because after all, you can’t know everything.

In a previous role, my team needed to document the current processes for a team. From there, we would work out the future process, enabling the team to understand how they can go from what they have now, to what they would do in the future.

“We already have our current processes”, the manager said. We’d seen those, and they weren’t good enough for us to work with. So we held a number of sessions over several months to try to explain our reasons and why we needed to do it better. We even offered to provide people to help them do the work.

“No, we have already done this.” This stopped our progress and what we needed was simply never done.

Leadership lessons are everywhere, and it’s important to remember the bad leadership behaviours, as well as to remember the good. Otherwise you just might find yourself one day doing something that you told yourself you never would.

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