What makes a good leader? There are countless books that claim to answer that question. In fact, by my rough estimate, if you laid all the leadership books end-to-end they would stretch for more than 35 miles. I’ve been fortunate to work for and with some very good leaders who taught me what good leadership really is. They also provided a stark contrast between their good leadership and other’s not so good leadership.
Okay, let’s not sugar coat it. There are some pretty bad leaders roaming free in our world. Since I firmly believe that, given the right tools and training, being a good leader isn’t all that difficult, I’ve often wondered why bad leaders still seem to be everywhere. In fact, because good leadership builds more productive organizations and makes life easier for everyone, don’t bad leaders have to work at being bad leaders?
Pondering that seeming dichotomy and observing leaders around me has led me to develop a list of traits which a leader would need to develop in order to be a bad leader. Here they are.
– Be clear that while your people may consider themselves a team, to you they are subordinates and should always keep that in mind.
– Believe in yourself to such a high degree that you know no one else can possibly come close to your intelligence and capability. Accept subordinates as lesser people that are unfortunately necessary to accomplish your goals. Advanced Technique: Make sure your subordinates know how you feel.
– Don’t listen to your subordinates. Better yet, pretend to listen but make it clear you have no real interest in their petty problems.
– Be arbitrary in your decision making. There really is no need for fairness. As long as things go your way, everyone else should be happy.
– Select a few subordinates to be your go-to people. When things go wrong, quickly point to them as the source of the problem. This is a critical step in your own success since you can inform your boss that you told those subordinates you saw the problem coming but they weren’t smart enough to take the right action.
– Buy some of the current popular leadership books and prominently display them in your office. Open the books and dog ear a few pages, but whatever you do, don’t read them. You have to get the actual books for this to work. Saying you have it on your Kindle won’t have the same effect.
– Keep your subordinates guessing. Remember, if they know what you’re really doing they are more likely to be able to accomplish something better, taking the spotlight off you.
– Never let on that you don’t know. If you don’t know or aren’t sure just raise your voice. Yelling at your subordinates will make them less likely to question you. Advanced technique: Practice a look that combines disdain with disbelief. When a subordinate actually has the nerve to suggest an alternate plan, especially if it’s better than yours, say nothing, give them that look, then ignore them.
– If you do slip up and allow a subordinate to have a good idea or accomplish something behind your back, be prepared to take the credit. Be subtle about this. You don’t want to say you actually did the work. Instead, make it known that you directed them and they were just the drone that did the grunt work.
To continue as a bad leader, there is one final step that, while vital to your success, may not be within your control. You must work for another leader who is weak and unable to see what you’re doing. If your boss is a good leader, he or she will make an effort to turn you into a good leader. If they are not able to do that, they will probably just ask you to leave.