15 Lessons I Learned from my Bad Bosses


Hopefully, you have had the experience of having a good boss.  Most of us know what it is like to have a bad boss.  I have experienced both and both can be unforgettable.  Having a Bad Boss can be an extreme demotivator.  There are countless examples that I can give of supervisors who I felt should not have been in a leadership position.

Since personal growth comes from learning through experiences, you can learn as much from a bad boss as from a good boss.  Every time I was confronted with a bad leader, I took mental note of what I did not want to exhibit in myself and worked hard to develop the opposite trait in my leadership style.  I saw how employees reacted during those bad leadership situations.  How unproductive those teams became and learned that to succeed, I needed to do the opposite.


Here are the 15 Lessons I learned from my Bad Bosses:


Strength is shown when things get tough

This is a BIG one.  I put this first because I cannot emphasize its importance.  How leaders react under pressure is a huge determining factor in the type of leader they are.  When things get tough, that is when teams need them the most, to direct them through tough times and keep them focused.  That is when you need to be their sail guiding them through the rough waters.



Great Leaders take constructive feedback from their teams.  They are humble enough to realize that there is always room for personal growth.  Sometimes the best indicators may come from those that leaders manage.


Leadership can be tough.  It is tough.  Leaders are under constant pressure to perform.  What your teams need most from you is your ability to show your PASSION, no matter the situation.  You should be their source of inspiration at all times.


Although they can be tough, certain conversations need to be had.  Be transparent with your employees even if they might not like what you tell them.  In the end, avoiding the conversation brings about more consequences than owning up to having it right away.  Be honest about their performance and what you need from them.  Do not wait for the end-of-year performance review as the only medium to give feedback.


Proactive leaders take responsibility for their management roles by engaging and cooperating with their team, leading by example, and always looking for ways to improve.  They look ahead and devise a plan to overcome foreshadowed problems.

Know how to get the answer

Leaders know that they don’t have to know all the answers.  They need to know where to find them.


Team Player

I have had leaders in the past who take credit for great performances.  Great Leaders share the glory with their team.  They understand that success is not created alone.  They show their appreciation for their performers.

Commits to your development

Great bosses make time for employee development.  They see it as an important investment of their time.

Knows how to have Fun

Great leaders don’t take things too seriously.  They are passionate and results-driven, but know how to do so in a fun environment.

Great Listener

The best way that I can describe what a great listener is is from Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” book.  “Seek first to Understand, then to be Understood”.  Listening is about trying to gain an understanding of the one who is speaking, not waiting for the person to finish, just so you can get your point across.

Never forget what it is like to be in your employees’ shoes

As a leader gains success and moves up, they should never forget what it is like to be in the shoes of the person they manage.  If you want to be a great leader, you need to understand where each member of your team is coming from.

Manage according to competency not comfort zone

Leaders practice Situational Leadership.  They manage people according to their level of competency for a given task.  Even if their preferred style of management is to be directive or even to micromanage, they step out of their comfort zone and adapt their style to what their employees need.

Redirect in Private

Coaching and redirection should be done on a one-on-one basis and should not be entertainment to those around.

Lead by Example

“Do as I say and not as I do”, is not something that is said by an exceptional leader.  Great leaders lead by example and never ask something of their team, they are not prepared to do themselves.

Forgive – Don’t Label

Even the best employees will make mistakes.  Don’t let these mistakes become who they are.  Use mistakes as coaching moments for development.  If your employees are afraid to make mistakes, their creativity and success will be affected.

What story do you have to share about a bad boss experience?

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