Tag Archive for managers

15 Scary Signs of Lousy Leadership



Right from Jump Street, let me be clear about something: I don’t mean you should be scared of these jackwagons we’re about to describe. Far from it. Leaders that pull the nonsense we’re about to talk through deserve neither your fear nor your respect, though they’ll try to bully you into giving them both or make you miserable until you do.

But if you see some of what I’m describing below, it should scare you into giving serious thought to your work environment, because these are all huge leadership red flags. Translation: you should probably be really considering getting out of Dodge, my friend. That, or you may end up making a deal with the devil or something. (Ok, so the devil reference may have been a little heavy-handed with the Halloweenish stuff I suppose, but you’ll forgive me, right?)

So what are these scary signs? Here you go.

They bully. 

This can take many forms, some of them overt, many more covert.

They’re passive-aggressive.

It’s like a way of life with some of these leaders. You know the type.

They’re emotionally abusive.

They tear into people because they can. If they break people down emotionally, they’re quick to spout nonsense about the other person being “too emotional” or something instead of acknowledging what every single other person around them knows: that they’re just a huge jerk. You see, emotional abuse is a weapon for these types of leaders. It’s a weapon used to gain and maintain power and control. The more often it works, the more often these sociopathic leaders will use it. It’s frightening — nay, chilling — how familiar the description of a sociopathic leader sounds if you’ve had the unfortunate experience of encountering one at some point in your journey.

They harass.

This can take all forms. Emotional. Verbal. And so on. Oh, the horror stories I could share. (Do I get additional bonus points for employing yet another Halloween-related word in my Halloween-themed post?)

They scheme.

They’re always playing some sort of game. They’re always scheming, sometimes by themselves, and sometimes with others. They’re typically worked up into a tizzy anytime they feel at all threatened, or any time they feel like their lousy leadership might be exposed. At that point, expect the scheming to kick into high gear.

They lie.

And not just here and there. It’s almost a way of life. If it will serve their purpose, they’ll lie. If it will keep them out of trouble, they’ll lie. If it will get them what they want, they’ll lie. If it will hurt someone they want to hurt, they’ll lie. If it will gain them favor with someone, they’ll lie. If it will result in financial gain, they’ll lie. If it will keep them out of trouble in a relationship, they’ll lie. If they’re bored, they’ll lie. If they’re wearing socks, they’ll lie. If it’s a day that the sun rose in the east, they’ll lie.

They manipulate.

They alter stories just a touch to get people to side with them on something. They exert emotional pressure on people to get them to do what they want. The employ guilt as a weapon. Everyone and everything is a pawn to these leaders.

They leech.

For more on this one, click the link above.

They serve themselves instead of their team.

They’re the antithesis of servant leadership. Everything is ultimately about them. They don’t give two shekels about their team when it comes down to it. The team is just there to do what they’re told and make them look good.

They never take responsibility for anything.

Everything negative is rationalized away. Everything. Everything is someone else’s fault. Leaders like this can turn over teammate after teammate after teammate, but they’ll have a story for every single one of them. All the while, research tells us that people leave managers. So when people leave (or even take demotions to escape), those leaders will be there with a story and reason as to why this is anything but their fault. Poor chemistry on these leaders’ teams? “Oh, some of them are bad apples,” they will no doubt say, rather than owning their poor leadership. People leaving their teams? “Oh, they had better opportunities.” Or, “They just weren’t a good fit for us,” will be the rationalization, rather than anything remotely close to owning the mess their leadership has created.

They’re quick to throw others under the bus.

Closely related to the above, leaders like this have no qualms about shoving folks into oncoming traffic. In fact, to them, it’s almost an art form.

They divide, rather than unite, people.

They pit people against each other. They pit departments against each other. They spread gossip, even amongst members of their own team. I’ve seen leaders like this; they just can’t help themselves.

Their ego is incessantly out of control.

They need to be praised and worshipped and idolized, and if no one does it, by god, they’ll actually do it themselves. Just watch — they will literally bring up things that they think you should be praising them for and then wait for you to praise them. That, my friends, is what happens when unbridled ego and a complete lack of self-awareness combine into one, ugly mess.

They’re obsessed with status.

Related to the previous point, but manifesting slightly differently, leaders like this desperately need to appear to be…something. They need the biggest office. They need not just a big salary, but a bigger one. They won’t say it out loud, but they need to be fawned over. They pout when they feel they’re not treated like royalty. They’ll clamor for more attention if they’re not getting enough.

They take credit for their teams’ successes, but blame the team for their failures.

When the team does well, they’re quick to take credit. Sure, they may toss out the obligatory acknowledgement to the team, but you can tell it’s just that — an obligation. Then they return to their regularly scheduled program of prattling on about how awesome they are. The irony, of course, is that their team is doing great work in spite of their leadership, not because of it. On the other hand, when things go sideways, these leaders aren’t nearly so quick to take the credit. In those cases, they’re oh so happy to point out that this or that individual didn’t do this or that and thus that individual — not the leaders themselves — failed. (Sigh)

Scary stuff, right? Most of us have seen stuff like this first hand. I know I have. And it’s too bad, because leaders like this can gut a team and organization.

Did I miss any? Have any thoughts to add? Share them in the comments! Happy Halloween!

Leader or Leech? 5 Ways to Tell.



Some “leaders” are just flat-out leeches.

Kind of a gross mental picture, to be sure; but given that this type of leader can suck the very lifeblood out of an organization, it seems apropos.

You can tell a lot about leaders by how they treat an organization. Is the organization there for their benefit? Or are the leaders there to serve the organization? There’s a huge difference, and it’s pretty easy to tell the difference if you look hard enough.

Here are five ways to pick out a leech who’s masquerading as a leader.

1. Leeches use their organizations simply as vehicles to attract the spotlight for themselves.

Is the organization just a platform for the leader to trumpet his/her accomplishments? (Quick FYI: I wrote the post I just linked to in the last sentence two years ago…well before somebody’s foray into politics.) It’ll be easy to tell, because these leaders are often fairly obvious in their attempts to do what it takes to be in the spotlight. Believe it or not, these leaders may even say out loud that they want the accolades from others.

2. Leeches fight for their own salary increases and perks harder than they do for anyone else’s (if they fight for anyone else’s at all).

Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying there’s not a place for folks to make a case for why they deserve a salary increase. I’m not saying that at all. But I do think it’s pretty telling if the only person that a leader goes to bat for as it relates to a salary increase is the leader him/herself. Leeches spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over their salary, complain about their salary to anyone who will listen, and are rarely not trying to figure out a way to get more money out of their organization. Do they extend that same effort to their teammates? Do they go to great lengths to see other hard-working colleagues rewarded in similar ways? No.

3. Leeches receive more of their praise from people outside the team or organization than the people who actually have to work for them.

Now think about this. What does it tell us if a hypothetical leader gets accolades, but most, if not all, of those accolades come from folks outside the organization? Wouldn’t it be a better sign if people inside the organization — and especially that leader’s team — were the ones raving about that leader’s leadership? If that’s not the case — if the only recognition that a leader gets is coming from outside the organization — might that not hint at the possibility that the only folks who think the leader is good are the ones who don’t actually experience his/her leadership? Hmmm…

4. When listening to leeches talk, they often talk about what more the organization should be doing for them in the way of perks, higher pay, travel, etc. Rarely, if ever, do you hear them commenting on or asking others how they can better learn, grow, and serve the organization and its employees.

This is a clear indicator of an immature, selfish, narcissistic mindset. Contrast that with examples of great leadership, where you often see leaders more concerned with embracing humility and serving others. I think we both know which one is ultimately going to be more successful.

5. Leeches are more concerned with controlling their team than serving them.

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s also typically pretty obvious. Leaders who control are just using the team and the organization to get what they want, and these leaders are often not afraid to use manipulative or even abusive means to do so (though these leaders will almost always do these things in such a way that it avoids detection, and they will certainly be ready to rationalize away any issues that happen to bubble up concerning their leadership).

I used the leech analogy on purpose. Someone in a leadership role who is displaying these tendencies is very much like a leech, sucking the lifeblood out of an organization and definitely out of any team that reports to such a leader.

Did I miss any other evidences of the leech leader? Let me know in the comments.

You Can Make the World a Better Place


What if you — yes, you — could make the world a better place?

People all over the place talk about wanting to do that. They descend into an existential funk trying to figure out how they can do that. But guess what? There’s an answer.

If you’re a leader, you can do your part to make the world a better place by making your workplace a better place to work.

Reject ego.

Reject the lure of power and prestige.

Reject orienting your life around seeking the spotlight.

Roll up your sleeves, embrace humility, lead by serving, and cultivate a healthy culture for your team.

You have no idea the impact you could have.

Are you in?