I was recently asked to elaborate on a boss I felt I had learned the most from throughout my career and why. The answer came easily to me: it was the worst leader I ever had. It was something I had already thought about in great detail. They didn’t teach me anything, they didn’t develop me to be better… no, they don’t get any credit. With the right attitude in this situation, you can learn and push yourself more than you ever have before.
What’s your definition of bad?
I have been fortunate enough to learn from and work for some amazing and phenomenal leaders. I am eternally grateful for each of them, and all the things they’ve taught me that I still carry in my tool belt today. This is a vast majority of my experience, and I consider myself lucky and grateful for that. Everyone has their own definition of a bad boss, but I think those can vary depending on the situation and circumstance. No one is perfect, we’re only human – but imperfection is a long way to straight up bad. For me, anyone and any leader who owns it, could never be dubbed as “bad” – at least in my eyes. If you’re owning it, you’re making an effort to be better and everyone deserves that opportunity. Personally speaking, there are four major things that define my version of a bad boss.
The Unreachable One:Whether they are MIA or AWOL doesn’t matter, they always seem to disappear off the grid, especially when you need them the most and in the middle of rapid fire. Then long after the smoke clears and the attack has subsided, they surface. Often quick to ask 20 questions that are now irrelevant, or to emphasize the authority you don’t have on decisions you were forced to make because they were nowhere to be found.
The Oblivious One: They have no idea what’s going on, nor do they put effort into knowing. Their reality is light years away from the reality. Whether it’s due to inadequate knowledge, plain ignorance, or lack of awareness is irrelevant; they aren’t putting in the effort and they are too prideful to admit they need to learn.
The Judge and the Jury: They often say things that contradict their own actions, or vice versa. Hypocritical by holding others to a different standard than they hold themselves. Often sanctimonious, putting themselves on a pedestal of moral superiority that they publicily praise themself for, completely lacking humility. The one that asks for feedback, but quickly interrupts it with disagreement or justification.
The Politician: They thrive on office politics, making important decisions with a self-serving perspective, in an effort to outshine their competition. They battle their insecurities by surrounding themselves with inferior people, or may ambiguously eliminate anything or anyone that they feel threatens them or their position. Easily identified as the ones that SPEAK more than they LISTEN. Using phrases like “sorry to interrupt” but then proceed to do it anyway… over and over again… like a political debate.
Sounds awful right? Well, it is. But… no matter how awful your experience may be, or what your own version of “bad” is, if you find yourself in this situation, don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of it.
3 invaluable things I learned from the worst leader I ever had:
- What Not To DoTaking all of the things that defined my version of bad then having countless self-reflections. This redefined me as a leader. I also learned how to recognize early signs that may suggest I was headed the wrong way, and how to change course. This taught me a new level of self-awareness and redefined how I reflected on my areas for improvement.
- I observed. Taking an inventory of my coworkers versions of bad, not just my own. Is it a condescending one? A dictator? Micro-manager? Just because I could tolerate it, didn’t mean others could. This taught me the importance of individuality.
- How to Push MyselfI learned how to push myself into uncomfortable and often unfamiliar territory. I thought I was a problem solver before… but when forced to figure things out, without the choice and when people are relying on you. Wow. I took advantage of the support I wasn’t getting, and learned how to do things I didn’t know I was capable of. I built new relationships and gathered new knowledge from other parts business that I didn’t have before.
- I tapped into a new level of resourcefulness that I didn’t even know existed within myself. It expanded my creativity and innovation in a way I had not yet pushed myself or taken the risk to do. Ultimately as a result, this gave me a different level of confidence and strength.
- Self DevelopmentThe importance of the investment I make into my own development. I couldn’t sit around and wait for someone to coach me through different coping and managing techniques or to offer mentor advice based on their own experience. I had to take full responsibility for my development if I wanted to grow. This responsibility stays with you.
- I learned a new level of patience and gratitude. And most importantly, that defeat is in the eye of the warrior and the greatest triumph comes to those who wait.
So, before you jump ship or you dedicate all your energy into trying to change them; think twice. You never know what triumph you may be missing out on.
Shout out to the ones that don’t support, teach, or protect us, and cheers to the ones that do.