Have you ever heard someone who has recently been promoted to a Leadership position say, " I want to be known as the most ruthless, cruel, selfish, arrogant, and feared manager the direct reports have ever seen? I plan to micro-manage them, discourage them, and I want to create a team that will feel distrust for the company and their teammates?" Me neither. I do not believe that managers or executives want to be bad managers, but sometimes they lose their way - perhaps due to their workload or a myriad of other reasons, In my view, most dangerous bosses would tell you that they are great leaders. These managers will typically speak about how many times they received promotions, how much money they made for themselves or the company, how many direct reports are underneath them or how they recently put an employee in his/her place. These bad bosses believe their own success, goal attainment, or achieved results make them an outstanding boss without realizing that while these achievements are commendable they actually have very little to with being a good leader. Many of the bad bosses have lost perspective of what makes a boss weak. So for the bad bosses or those who want to become one let's take a moment to review the followingcomparative.
The Good Boss-Bad Boss Experience
Kenny was a top manager in a Fortune 500 company. He was someone who was well respected by his direct reports, peers and senior management. After a number of years with the company, Kenny was diagnosed with an ailment which struck him seemingly out of nowhere. Thankfully after two major surgeries his health eventually returned, but he did struggle with some new challenges as it related to his sense of direction. He suddenly had difficulty remembering how to get to a remote office he traveled to and was forced to add a GPS to his rental (this was before GPS systems were on phones or in-dash systems were available) each time he was out of town. However since the company policy did not authorize GPS systems for employee rentals Kenny directly paid for the GPS add-on out of his pocket. Eventually, Pam O, who was Kenny's VP of sales, heard of this & she immediately made arrangements to ensure Kenny received reimbursement on past GPS add-ons retroactively, and all his rentals in the future. Kenny often described Pam as the best boss or coach or leader he’d experienced during his life. After a number of years with the organization, Kenny was recruited to work for another company in the same vertical. Although he never again worked for a boss as good as Pam at the new corporation, he did, in fact, work with a very talented group of people. Kenny also experienced numerous successes as his team was responsible for signings of multiple large deals which contributed to a number of awards and recognition. During Kenny's fourth year at the company, a management shake-up occurred. Kenny was now working for a new boss whom over time Kenny realized was more controlling, insecure and not always honest. During the previous four years with the new company Kenny had never had his expense reports kicked back but the new boss was very interested in each and every entry which Kenny recorded. One of the expense entries questioned included one for the GPS system which Kenny still needed because of his pre-existing condition. Kenny, who was not prone to making excuses regarding his challenges and in fact often joked about them to make others feel more comfortable - sheepishly explained to the boss the reason why he needed the GPS device. The manager then asked the following question; "Kenny are you listed with the company as disabled in any way?" Kenny responded, " I have never considered myself disabled." To which the boss replied "well unless you are considered physically disabled I will not authorize the charges and you will need to pay for the GPS out of your pocket on all future rentals as well."
The Good & The Bad
The Good Boss and strong leader, Pam was concerned about her associate first and policy second. She evaluated the situation and did what was right without concern about how it might make her appear too soft or “touchy feely” or perhaps even weak. The bad boss felt that his position required him to appear tough, and he made decisions that reinforced this belief. Policy dictated that a GPS not be reimbursed therefore the bad boss made the decision to stick with the “rulebook,” with no regard for Kenny’s unique circumstances.
No One is as Bad as The Worst Thing He or she Have Done
Two bosses. Two very different approaches. If you are a leader you have already determined Pam’s decision was not just about being empathetic. It was also good for the company. Leaders know decisions such as the one Pam made while not always easy, are essential in creating loyal, happy employees and cohesive teams which in turn provide greater profits and delighted customers. Most successful leaders have their own personal “Kenny story” that ultimately were the impetus for record-breaking results. If you are a manager or executive who is having trouble figuring out which is the bad boss in the story, then you probably have lost your way. However, don’t be discouraged. Many great leaders were once bad bosses but by applying new principles of leadership, they are now reformed.
During the next ten weeks, I will provide you with Ten Principles that will change your management style from a bad positional boss to a legacy leader.
Leadership Principle #1
Good Bosses and Leaders always put people before process.
Take 15-20 minutes per day this week to find out one new thing about each of your top employees. What makes an employee tick is generally found in what they love. What they love outside of work (hobbies, family, civic activities, etc.) are often the very things which highly effective leaders use to better know, motivate, inspire and lead the individual. Once you have completed week one of the growth exercise, don't stop! Do the same exercise the following week to find out one new thing about five other employees that you do not know very well.
It is awkward to put people first unless you know who they are as people. Do the above for the next ten days. I promise you it will make a difference in changing you from a bad boss to a good boss & leader.
I look forward to hearing the outcomes at firstname.lastname@example.org