There is no right way to lead, but there are countless ways to mislead. You can gain new insights from bad leaders on what not to do.
According to a study by the University of Central Florida (UCF), victims of business related abuse can become effective leaders when presented with influential positions of authority by becoming aware of their bad bosses practices.
Although there are many negatives a bad leader could bring to an organisation, including it’s potential demise in the worst-case scenario. They also bring a small positive by indirectly teaching subordinates what to avoid as a potential future leader.
Success magazine states that common traits of bad leaders include lacking at transparency, understanding, communication, listening, consistency, and empathy.
Bad leaders are not good at adapting to new conditions, developing their teams, valuing potential, and praising good behaviour.
And apparently they have an abundance of blame, rules, ego, closed-mindedness, gossip and work to go around.
Someone who is not a good leader generally tends to have a bigger tendency towards being phony, autocratic, opportunist, narrow-minded, greedy, malicious, seething, moody, arrogant, or any combination thereof.
So surely growing the opposite of these bad leadership traits could be the cure-all?
If only it were that simple.
Not only must authentic leaders have many opposite traits to bad leaders, but they must also be realistic and self-assess by rating themselves out of 10 for their own bad traits.
Following their self-assessment they must work towards undoing as much damage as possible by bringing negative traits to zero out of ten over the long-term.
- If you blame others for mistakes or failures five times out of ten, how can you work towards interpreting situations more practically?
- If you do not value the potential of employees with less experience six times out of ten, how can you work towards giving “noobs” more value?
- If you are hiding your flaws and acting like someone else nine times out of then, how can you work towards being more genuine?
A glimmer of hope for those feeling stuck with a bad leader:
As important as it is to learn from bad leaders, it is also important not to become one.
Unfortunately, most of modern society is busy looking for cures to complex problems, which are partially or completely caused by bad leadership or their examples.
Instead, society could be finding ways to prevent complex problems from happening in the first place.
This trend of people concentrating on cures could be read daily on newspapers about both business and life in general, from actions taken by celebrities and small businesses to national governments and multinational corporations.
It seems the media dinosaurs of the 20th Century have ingrained in us a collective habit and mass hysteria of seeking or even creating villains through manipulation – to look down upon, and have our powerful “super-heroes” save the day.
In reality, instead of fueling these so-called “super-heroes”, which are predominantly in aggressive re-active mode. The correct action would be to learn from the mistakes of past-villains and actively prevent them from being repeated in the first place.
This correct notion of stability could be achieved through improving education, media, psychology, compliance, policing and entertainment centric systems within organisations and their subsidies.
As good as being a “super-hero” is for the short or medium-term branding of a company or country, having no villains in the first place is without question better for long-term branding and sustainable development.
An exemplification of a good leader taking the correct and stable approach is that of Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, and her government, following the terrorist attack at Christchurch in March 2019:
Ardern actively praised the local community in-person for being strong and sticking together in the face of adversity. Her government then passed a gun-law reform less than a month after the tragic event to prevent such villains from rising in the first place.
She could have been a bad leader by playing the “super-hero” card and concentrating her FULL efforts on the villain or blaming others such as the police or intelligence services for months on end.
Instead Ardern ensured the villain got prosecuted quietly without giving him the light of day, which is evidently what he desired. She then moved on towards selflessly listening to the community, empathetically working towards curing the challenges at hand, and transparently preventing such horrific tragedies from happening again.
The study by UCF discovered that people who trusted their sound-judgements, strict morals and sincere uprightness to challenge bad leadership customs felt inspired to prevent them from happening again in the future.
Despite the fact that bad leadership is not expected to disappear anytime soon, people who set good examples or learn and work towards solving complex issues through active training and constructive prevention lead the way in effective leadership. And this is the most efficient when applied from the top-down.
Or as Friedrich Nietzsche put it; “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”