Most articles are about how to be a great leader. I’ve never seen one on how not to be a great leader so I thought I would write a post. I’m referring mainly to Presidents, CEO’s and entrepreneurs. What makes me qualified to write this? Nothing really other than 2 decades spent in an office setting, observing every leader I’ve worked for. Additionally, my father was an entrepreneur and although he pissed me off more times than not, I would consider him one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever met. Trust me, he never made life easy for my sisters and I. If anything, in an effort to show his employees he did not favor us, he was harder on us than anyone else in the restaurants.
How Not to be a Great Leader
Arrive after everyone else
At a former employer, I watched as the CEO gave the new admin a tour. She would later tell me about the conversation she had with him….
“Most managers arrive around 9:30-10,” the CEO bragged.
“Oh wow, a real rock star schedule here,” she said sarcastically.
“Rock star,” the CEO said, as if testing how the words tasted on his tongue. “I really like that.”
The serious leaders I’ve worked for were ALWAYS there before me, always. She wasn’t complimenting him, she was covertly insulting the culture but that leads into my next point.
Everything is perfect
Many years ago, I asked a former co-worker how her exit interview went. What she told me made me fall off my chair. When her then manager asked why she was leaving, she began listing the reasons. Half way through (legit issues I might add), the manager stopped her in mid-sentence and announced she didn’t want to hear anymore. Are you kidding me? If you take anything at all away from this post, it should be this:
Every company’s shit stinks
Listen to your people, especially the ones leaving. Even if you firmly believe there was a fault in every employee departing your “perfect” company, look for patterns. If a common complaint is a boss, then why is that person still a boss or at the very least coached? Is it loyalty? Complacency? Laziness? The bottom line is this, if you truly realize (and not just for propaganda purposes) your organization can always do better and value even the negative feedback, this only allows your company to grow. You would think this is common sense but I’ve seen folks making 6 to 7 figures forget this. Why? Because even the company’s success falls victim to the illusion of perfection.
Putting people in leadership, based on seniority
To the day I die, I will never understand this.
“Well, you’ve been here 7 years. As a thank you, we’re gonna put you in charge of 3 people. Congrats!”
This is like hiring me as a hairdresser. Sure, you’ll have an outcome, but it won’t be pretty. I truly believe you either have leadership qualities or you don’t. It’s instilled through their upbringing. Having said this, I also realize that the ratio of natural-born leaders versus the need is completely out of whack. In that case, where is the training? Why aren’t new leaders trained in lieu of just being thrown in? Because it’s a vicious cycle. If you are a poor leader, chances are, you will choose poor leaders. If you’ve never been taught, then you cannot teach. Though your business may succeed, is it reaching its full potential with the wrong people in place?
Using stupid “corporate” words
In my early days of blogging, I wrote 3 posts on corporate sayings we are all tired of. You can find them here:
I have never understood that once you are in a certain earning bracket, you need to sound like a doosh. I’m talking about emails I’ve received that look something like this:
We’ve decided in an effort to align our long-term strategy with our financial goals. We will be evaluating everyone’s objectives and responsibilities over the next quarter. To help us achieve this, we’ve hired an outside consulting firm to analyze and drill down to each department’s function. Once their evaluation has concluded, we will then send several of you on to new opportunities, but provide you with the support you need to be developed.
Here, allow me to translate: you’re being laid off. With the exception of an email like this, this happened to me. They even named it. Are you ready for this? They called it the “renaissance project”, I shit you not. Basically, they hired an outside firm to come in and see where corners could be cut then layed off a bunch of people (my job was spared, thank God). During this time, I saw it for exactly what it was and said so,
“Why are they calling this the renaissance project? This isn’t a renaissance. It’s the damn dark ages!”
On another note, I was layed off at another company and part of my severance package was attending a job placement firm/classes. It drove me insane that they called the lay-off a “transition”. Having had enough, one day in one of these ridiculous classes, I blurted out,
“Let’s call this for what it is. I was laid off! This isn’t a transition. I don’t have a job and this sucks.”
I never went back. So tell me, what are other ways people can not be a great leader?
This post is dedicated to the most amazing leader I’ve ever known, my father. We will unfortunately mourn the 15th anniversary of his death, Saturday.