Are You Working Under A Failed Leader?
I have never led a large group of people. Nor do I aspire to, so I’m unqualified to expound on the qualities of a greatleader.
I did suffer my share of failed leaders though, be it at school or work, and for that reason I am more than certified to list the types of leaders people lose sleep and hair working under. These are the nightmarish bosses that make work the primary reason for hypertension. I grief for you if you’re currently suffering under one. And I certainly hope you are actively hunting for better prospects elsewhere. The future is grim for you, I regret to say. So very grim.
1. The Leader Who Favours
In my opinion, favouritism in very sparing dosages could be beneficial. It's a form of reward, sort of. In any larger quantity and it becomes poison. I’m talking about leaders deep into the nurturing of pets. It’s still bearable when these pets are competent, as in, things still get done. But it becomes absolute hell when these pets are no more than sycophants who exert an invisible stranglehold on the whole organisation. A lot of times, these pets lord over others too.
There are different recommendations on how to deal with favouritism. To me, few if any of these methods work, because the root cause of favouritism is always a case of the leader and the pet having a relationship that extends far beyond work. When trapped under such a relationship, your only options are whether to tolerate it, to suck up to the pet hoping you can glean some fringe benefits, or to leave. Needless to say, the most sensible option is to go. Don't even start to fantasize about becoming the next pet in the succession line.
2. The Leader Who Bullies
(Important: Workplace bullying can be illegal! If you believe yourself to be a victim, research your rights as an employee and take appropriate action)
This is the leader who screams and shouts, who thumps the table and calls you names. We all get carried away sometimes, especially when it comes to money. But as civilised beings, there are boundaries to respect. The leader who bullies is someone that deliberately disregards such boundaries.
Note that bullying also does not necessarily involve violence or tantrums. It could be subtler. For example, expecting favours, or simply picking on you about everything. Think of such leaders as playground bullies who have moved on to a larger field. There is no reasoning with them. Either you confront them or you suffer in silence. Of course, you could also consider switching playgrounds.
3. The Leader Who Delays
Outside of my current job, I have worked under “leaders” who simply abhor making decisions. Particularly decisions that involve significant change or pain. These are the leaders who are generally amiable, but in times of crises, are absolutely useless. Bluntly put, they often even add to the predicament simply by refusing to take decisive action.
It is a huge fail, as decisiveness is a foremost requisite of strong leadership. It gets worse when prolonged indecision leads to a greater crisis, because you risk being showered part of the blame. Is there any way out of this? Well, you could attempt to take over leadership temporarily, just to resolve the issues on hand. Question though is whether the indecisive leader would relinquish authority, that itself being another decision to make. In the end, maybe it’s best to keep quiet and pray for your organisation to weather the storm. Meanwhile, start working your networks for alternate offers. All organisations can only survive a limited amount of beating.
4. The Spotless Leader
A close friend of mine recently suffered this. There was a terrible staff in her company. Her boss acknowledged that the staff should be removed. The boss then assigned my friend to handle the entire firing process, while she herself stayed spotless and neutral.
Strictly speaking, this is not a complete leadership fail. It is more of a distasteful aversion to conflict. Yet, it is also a reliable indicator of the future. Like number (3), such leaders cannot be depended on in times of crisis. They value their own reputations more than their duties. Unless you feel empowered being their executors, chances are you would suffer badly as the black prince of the organisation. And one day, one day, someone else might be tasked to handle your firing. For being so ... unpopular.
5 .The Leader Who Cares Only About Family
Let me get personal for a moment. I have a relative who runs a MNC. He rose through the ranks spectacularly in his youth, eventually buying a majority in the company. At his peak, he had factories in three continents. Nowadays, he laments the irreversible dwindling of his company. One of his usual gripes, the inability of his company to attract or retain capable new talents.
Or so he claims. Having spoke with several of his staff, I discovered all of them were disgruntled. My relative, at every opportunity, makes it clear he intends to only pass over management of his company to his children. When he gets carried away, he even mocks his lesser staff, stating that they are but tools to build up the careers of his children. (I’m phrasing it politely here, BTW). Here’s the hard truth. Everybody wants a future. Why should anybody’s future be sacrificed for the future of the boss' children? The leader who makes it clear that he believes in bloodlines rather than meritocracy is an utter failure. Down the road, he also destroys the future of those he cares for, by eroding the organisation. Do stick around for that to happen.
Be Honest. How Would You Feel If Your Boss' Son Enters the Company, and Is Immediately the Second in Command?
6. The Leader Who Is Too Satisfied
These are the least loathsome leaders on this list. They tend to be older, and have done well in the organisation. To them, work is no longer a foremost priority. Other things in life matters more.
In other words, they tend to opt firmly for status quo.
Status quo is not a bad thing. In some circumstances, its defensive nature could even ensure survival, such as during an economic downturn. But status quo also implies little future for followers. Working under these leaders, you would be trapped in the same nutshell forever. Progressively, your work also becomes more burdensome because of the refusal to innovate. And when crises hits … … When the satisfied leader decides he has had enough and it’s time for sunset … … You know what I mean.
7. The Leader Who Is Absent
These are the leaders who take the title of "boss" too literally. They believe that leadership involves only assigning work, i.e. “delegation.” If there’s a work week when this leader shows up once, the appearance becomes the talk of the pantry. And you can be sure the whole organisation fusses for days just to prepare for that appearance.
How badly these leaders fail is debatable. In most circumstances, actual leadership has already been taken over by someone else. At the same time, it is not uncommon too for such organisations to continue existing, while still performing well. The question really is, what happens when the de facto leader decides to take over completely or leave the organisation? I bet great adventure and spicy conspiracies would ensure. And you would have a real adventure trying to survive the upheaval.
8. The Leader Who Shuns
The most detestable failed leaders are those who shun. The ones who embrace leadership in name only, and shun any negative aspect or history that comes with the role.
These are leaders who insist that all existing faults in the organisation are not of their doing. Instead, predecessors are to blame. In some cases, they even decline rectification because “it was not caused by them” or “it was outside of their control.” What’s happening in truth is that these leaders desire only the title and glamour of leadership. As for the unsavoury parts of the package, they sweep those underneath the carpet. They pretend the problems never existed.
The harm? Obvious, isn't it? These self-preserving, self-adoring ones will not be dependable in difficult times. Worse, by ignoring uglier histories and issues, they permit these to fester and one day these matters would become irresolvable. When that happens, what do you think these leaders would do? Who do you think they would remove or sacrifice just to preserve their own reputations? Not difficult to figure out. Better pack your bags before you’re swept under the carpet too.
Which Is the Worst Leader to Work Under?
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