I Was A Bad Boss And This Is What I Learnt

22 December, 2021

No rational person enters their profession with the goal of becoming a relentless, unreasonable, or difficult boss, but for reasons such as a toxic work environment, inability to handle pressure, or being oblivious to what good leadership is, this is where some people end up. In this article for Women’s Agenda, Michelle Gibbings, workplace expert and author, shares her experience of discovering she had become an unpopular leader, and the lessons she was able to glean from this.

You need to get real

The expectations of leaders these days are huge. You work long hours, are always on call, and must sort out complex problems and juggle competing demands; all the while knowing you face permanent job insecurity. Throw in an overly demanding boss, or stakeholders who don’t support and back you, and the pressure rises.

Most of us have an image of our ideal ‘self ’. We picture how we respond to situations, or what we might say or do if presented with a problem. Sadly, however, we don’t always live up to our expectations, and we can be blind to the impact we have on those around us.

To be an effective leader, you have to open your eyes to what is going on, by turning your ‘unconscious’ self into a ‘conscious’ self.

Take time out to reflect critically and honestly on what is going on in your world, and how internal or external circumstances are affecting you.

Take care of you

If you are working in a job you don’t like, in a toxic culture and for an over-demanding boss, then you will likely struggle to be a good leader. Similarly, if you don’t take care of yourself, then you’ll struggle to have the bandwidth to cope when things go haywire, and unproductive leadership behaviours will surface.

When you are stressed you are not at your best, and those around you will likely suffer the fallout.  Staying in peak physical and mental condition is not just a nice to have; it’s essential. 

So set aside time to meditate, exercise, eat well and other activities that help you unwind and recharge.

Change starts with you

You can’t expect others to effectively lead if you aren’t willing to role model the desired behaviour.

Harvard academics, Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey studied why many crucial change efforts fail, finding that one of the core problems is the gap between what is required and a leader’s level of development.

As they write in their book, Immunity to Change: “…it may be nearly impossible for us to bring about any important change in a system or organisation without changing ourselves (at least somewhat)…”

Achieving this requires you to delve into the meaning that drives your behaviour, the mental models you are applying to the decisions you are making, and knowing your leadership moments of truth. These moments are the actions which define how colleagues, peers and team members view your leadership.  It may be the gap between what you say and what you do, how you promote and recruit, and how you reward people.

With that knowledge in hand, you can build an approach to elevate your leadership.

Learning never stops

Making leadership progress isn’t about the one big thing you do. It’s about the things you do every single day. Some will be tiny, and others are big; some quickly noticeable, some not.

Leadership development is an ongoing journey of discovery. The learning never stops. Equally, be prepared for progress to take time. While you may notice some shifts around the edges quite quickly, most change takes at least six to 12 months of sustained effort to translate into tangible benefits and outcomes. Don’t be put off or disappointed if progress isn’t as fast as you’d like it to be.

via Women’s Agenda, 13 September 2021. Read the full article here.

Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership’s programs include the 2 day Executive Ethics, 6 day Executive Colloquium and year-long Vincent Fairfax Fellowship. We also deliver online and tailored corporate programs. Find the right program for you. They are all held under the Chatham House Rule to encourage genuine and open debate, and allow participants to candidly discuss sometimes sensitive issues in private while allowing the topic and nature of the debate to be made public, and contribute to a broader conversation. The alumni program offers ongoing leadership development support and a lifelong connection with Cranlana.

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