“Great people are hard to find.” It’s a statement you hear a lot with hiring managers and talent acquisition friends. We had a listener question that flipped the dynamic by talking about how hard it was to find a great boss while asking the question, “Is it possible for a good person to turn into a bad boss?”
The answer is that even great leaders can find themselves becoming a bad boss if they aren’t mindful of it. While I think there are a number of reasons why people end up at this point, from being promoted too soon, to not being equipped to handle the soft skills of leadership, or personal disengagement, very few people start out with the intention of being a bad boss to others.
So how do people get to this point?
It’s often a subtle and long journey, and the person can miss that they’ve strayed off of the right path. Here are some things to look for to help determine if you becoming a bad leader.
Signs that you may be a bad leader
Are people bailing on you? The Great Resignation aside, have you been seeing an uptick in people leaving the organization lately? It’s said that people quit bosses, not companies and that is largely correct. While the counterargument is that it is all about money does hold some weight, especially for entry-level jobs, it becomes less of a factor for higher levels in the organization.
If you have people leaving, especially abruptly, it likely means that they have hit their breaking point and have given up on their role. This is a strong indicator that your leadership is at play in their decision to seek employment elsewhere.
How comfortable are people around you? We’ve all been there. It’s the feeling of having to walk on eggshells because you don’t know what will set the other person off. That feeling and dynamic can cause you to have anxiety or feel fearful to be truthful with the other person.
How are people acting when they are around you? Are they timid to share any constructive criticism or questions about directions or a project? If so you may have a toxic environment at play where the team feels like it has to hide in the shadows in order to survive the day. If you are unsure about the hesitation of your team to share honestly, throw out a really bad idea and see what their reaction is. If there is no hesitation or pushback, you may have a team that fears giving their honest opinion.
Who carries the trophy? When it comes to the success of your team, who is the one that is recognized for their accomplishments? Do you find yourself holding the proverbial trophy after the team wins and taking credit for all of the success? It’s an easy trap to fall into. We discussed the ego trap in the 7 deadly sins of leadership with Jennifer Thornton (EP 257)
Employees can quickly see when you make the direction about yourself and can feel unappreciated as a result. it doesn’t always have to be at the big milestones wins either; are you the speaker for the group when it comes time to present to the senior leaders or clients? Are you the face of the job when all the others are the ones that did the hard work?
Recognize how much of the spotlight you take in both the big and small parts of your and your team’s work.
Tips to get back on track
Maybe you see yourself in a bit of the examples above. Know that hope is not lost. Just as you had a journey or experiences that led you to where you are today, you can also take a journey back to great leadership that includes and engages others in a meaningful way.
Take the “No More” approach. We’ve talked before about the no-more approach before. It’s the idea that as you reflect back on past bad experiences that you’ve had with other bosses or companies that you commit to people under your leadership will never have that bad experience again. It’s a great way to make the best of bad leadership situations.
Are there things that you are doing or ways that you are currently leading that need a “No More” correction? If so, commit to it and begin righting the experience of others immediately. These are often behavioral on your part so they take little discussion or debate with others to implement.
Commit to an encouraging word a day. For most people, it takes being intentional in order to lift people up and encourage them. Try starting small by recognizing and encouraging one person a day. If you need some ideas on ways you can encourage others you can check out:
Acknowledge what others know. Your people know when you are a bad boss. instead of hiding behind new initiatives and commitments, own up to your growth opportunities and explain to them your commitment to do better. This will show them that you have an authentic desire to change, and it will keep you accountable to take the steps necessary to head in the right direction.
It’s never too late to turn around your leadership reputation no matter how far you’ve strayed. With time, commitment, and a humble attitude you can bounce back to your former glory.
Make a better tomorrow.