When I first got my leadership role, I was studying Business in school. I learned several techniques and strategies on all areas of running a business. School taught me about Finance, Accounting, HR policies and procedures, Economics and more. What school didn’t teach me was the leadership practices that I adopted through self learning and on the job experience.
Who you are today is in part due to what you learned from your past. Whether through observation, education or experience, you probably have gained enough knowledge to write several books. Often, we learn the most through our failures. A great habit is to learn not only from your failures, but the failures of others.
“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
If I were to ask you for examples of bad leadership practices, how easy would it be? In order to find the answer, you might even refer to a time when you witnessed a bad leader or heard a story about one. There is no perfect leader. It just simply doesn’t exist. There are however extraordinary leaders, effective leaders and inspirational leaders. What do we learn from them? Probably a lot. You can also learn just as much from the bad bosses you’ve encountered.
This post is about highlighting bad leadership practices with examples of what not to do.
“Bosses shape how people spend their days and whether they experience joy or despair, perform well or badly, or are healthy or sick. Unfortunately, there are hordes of mediocre and downright rotten bosses out there, and big gaps between the best and the worst.” ― Robert I. Sutton, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst
Lesson: Great communication is not only about the words that are being said but the words not being said.
You’ve Been Caught: Point and flick.
I was ordering a coffee at a local coffee shop. What looked like a new employee was asking the manager for help with an order. Instead of responding to her, he just pointed and flicked his finger. The employee did not understand what he was trying to say at first, so she asked the question again. His reaction? To point and flick with even more emphasis.
If the manager would have just taken the time to explain, I am sure the employee would have understood a lot quicker.
You’ve Been Caught: Too frustrated for words.
In the same week, I went to the grocery store to pick up some essentials. While at the cash, I witnessed another example of a poor leadership practice.
Cashier to Manager: “After this transaction, can I please go on break?”
Manager: (Stares at employee)
Cashier: “I was supposed to go 45 minutes ago but it got busy”.
Manager: (Still staring)
Cashier: (Confused, uncomfortable, she stares back)
Manager: Points towards employee break room.
Now, I am conscious that I don’t know the back story. Maybe this manager has been having issues with this employee on a regular basis. It is possible that there was a buildup of frustration. That is part of the deal. It won’t always be easy. However, as a leader, it is always your role to inspire and develop your team. Not answering your employees and simply pointing is not going to go a long way towards their development.
Maybe in both cases, the manager preferred his nonverbal answer instead of what he really wanted to say. Unfortunately, both managers spoke loudly not only to their employees but the customers witnessing the exchange.
Have you seen an example of a bad leadership practice before?