My kids sometimes come home from school frustrated by someone who didn’t treat them well or maybe just acted like a selfish jerk. I’ve tried to teach them that people like that exist to teach us how not to act.
Leadership analysis at work
In an attempt to practice what I preach, I try to follow the same advice at work. I treat bad leaders with the same approach. It’s good to do some leadership analysis to learn not just the effective approaches they use, but also to learn from the ineffective ones.
Think about the people you currently work for and ones that you’ve worked for in the past. If you’re like most people, you’ve worked for good managers and bad ones; some that you thought were great leaders and others where you wondered how they ever got into that position.
Great leaders that I’ve worked for have continued to be mentors for me throughout my career, long after they were done with the official manager role.
Critiquing the bad ones
As for the not-so-great leaders, our ties were no longer as strong after our business relationship was over. They were often done with me if I wasn’t able to add to their revenue streams.
Some people who have worked for bad leaders talk about their regret. They wish they had never worked for that jerk.
But just as we shouldn’t regret our mistakes because of what we learn from them, we also shouldn’t regret working for bad leaders. We can learn as much from bad leaders as we can from good ones. It’s good to compare and contrast their styles.
With good leaders, you see what works well. By working for bad leaders, you learn what doesn’t work and why good leadership approaches work so well.
Good leaders make mistakes. Once in a while a great leader screws up and acts as a bad leader. If they’re that good, they willingly admit their mistake. On the other side of the coin a normally bad leader exhibits good leadership every once in a while. It’s important to critique the tactics more than the people. No one is perfect and no one is perfectly incompetent.
If you want to be a good leader, you have to endure some bad leadership in order to recognize what good leadership really is.
“I’ve read dozens of books about heroes and crooks and I’ve learned much from both of their styles.” – Jimmy Buffett , Son of a Son of a Sailor
What have you learned from good leaders and bad leaders?
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.