Why Bad Leadership Is So Bad

Why Bad Leadership Is So Bad

From my experience, I believe that bad leaders learn from other bad leaders. They don’t always know the extent to which their negative leadership reaches. They think this style of leadership works, and as long as it works, they will continue to use it. They usually lack emotional intelligence and are missing key “EQ” competencies.

Barbara Kellerman wrote Bad Leadership, What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters. She writes: “The overall costs of bad leadership are impossible to calculate precisely. In addition to the pain and suffering of those directly victimized by bad leadership, there is the pain and suffering of those who are indirectly victimized, especially family and friends. Bad leadership incurs costs not only at the level of the individual but also the level of the group.”

One common form of bad leadership is often called out as “micromanagement.” I have never met a micro manager that thought they were a micro manager, or thought there was any problem with the way they lead others. They just don’t notice that their style does not demonstrate respect or trust.

Do you have a proclivity to closely manage your people so that they don’t make a big mistake? Do you try to stay informed of everything they are doing so you know if they are productive? Do you know how your team would answer these questions? Taken to extremes, these tendencies can become serious fatal flaws that minimize leadership effectiveness.

People don’t want to be judged or controlled. They don’t like to be told what to do. They have needs to be understood and respected. Managing others through a process of directing and controlling is not effective today. Great leaders develop skills to lead others with humility, authenticity, and genuineness. Leading by telling others what to do and trying to control them doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how much you know about your work. Leaders focus on people and process, in that order. They understand poor processes will hurt a business, but highly engaged employees can improve a poor process.

Micro managers fear not being successful and making mistakes. Because of the fear that ‘motivates’ them, they mostly think about themselves and what will happen if someone screws something up. Great leaders know this temptation and work to minimize their selfishness by placing others’ needs first. They work to empower, engage, and enroll their team. They commit to help their team be successful. They earn the right to lead others by first developing relationships and giving the appropriate amount of autonomy.

If you find that you tend to use command and control as your leadership style and others may see you as a micro-manager, I recommend assessing each relationship (boss, direct reports, peers). Assess the quality of each relationship. Once you have assessed the quality or strength of each, ask yourself how much trust exists between you and the other person. Then reflect on their needs – see them in a different way. In this light, ask yourself, “What would be the most significant thing that I could do to improve the relationship?” Leaders take responsibility for their part in a relationship that has been sub-optimized, and they will work at improving it.

Maybe you don’t have to stop using your command and control style. But without finding significant ways to balance it with demonstrating how much you trust the team, respecting them for their strengths and providing some autonomy, the trust level will always be lower. Ask yourself; is it better to have a high level of trust or to be in total control?