Some topics are worth revisiting on a semi-regular basis and I firmly believe that leadership falls in to that category. Books are written about it. Movies have been made illustrating the good, the bad and the insane qualities of leadership. Seminars get attended to be better at leading. Tweets get tweeted hourly on leadership mishaps (see Rob Ford here) and the number of blogs on leadership would blow your mind. But to what effect? We can have all the resources available that the mighty Google can source for us but who is looking? Especially important – if you don’t know you are a bad leader, are you even aware that you should be looking?
I’ve worked with all kinds of leaders. Some inspired me to evaluate my own leadership skills and follow their example so I could learn from them to improve myself. Some made me want to rip my hair out and run naked through a pond of pirahanas rather than continue to follow them. All of them taught me various lessons about what I perceive good and bad leadership qualities to be. My question this morning is: at what point does a bad leader realize they are a bad leader and would they actually do anything about it?
Good leaders are the ones accessing the resources in the libraries, bookstores, seminars and the gajillion other opportunities to expand their repertoire so that they can build better teams and foster a positive work environment for their organization. Good leaders recognize that to be a good leader you must always be on the lookout for ways to diversify and improve your knowledge base. Good leaders set an example of humility and strength by acknowledging that they don’t know everything and will learn from all levels of an organization or industry to get better. These are the leaders that inspire staff / colleagues to stay and follow their footsteps until it’s time to pay it forward and become a good leader themselves.
But what about the bad leaders? The ones who actually NEED the books and seminars and myriad other leadership building resources that abound in the Googleverse? The ones who stumble and bumble and bully and refuse to accept that the lack of cohesion on their team is a direct result of their inability to inspire anyone to do anything other than stage a full scale coup d’etat? Or run naked screaming make it stop? How do you get a bad leader to see that they are doing more harm than good? Not only to their staff who then have to recover and try to move past this leadership debacle but to themselves and the damage they do to their reputation? Lots of questions for a Saturday morning but my copy of SUCCESS magazine arrived and it always inspires me to think.
Maybe it’s as simple a difference as the difference itself. Good leaders recognize the long term value in building relationships, providing opportunity for mentorship, striving for improvement while being effective and knowing that half the battle is listening. Listening to what your staff are telling you and listening for what they are not. Reaching out to leaders in your industry to chat and glean and increase your knowledge. Being confident enough to surround yourself with people who can help you do your job better rather than with people who will never aspire to move beyond their cubicle and are happy to say yes to whatever misguided, uninformed decree you hand down from on high. Until bad leaders understand the difference, they will continue to corrupt the idea of what a good leader should be to anyone unfortunate enough to be uncomfortable with nudity and not embrace the running screaming option sooner than later.
What’s my point? As I move forward in my new career, I’m looking for a boss who embraces my strengths, recognizes that I can contribute to their team without saying yes all the time and firmly believes in the power that comes from walking on the same path together until it’s time to create a new one. I know now, more than ever thanks to my job coach, that I’m a valuable professional who can be a good leader when necessary but is always looking to follow a better example and learn from the team. I know that might sound a bit kitschy but it’s true. People are the best resource to learn from and as much as I enjoy the Twitterverse and Googleverse, nothing replaces a good leader.