One of the best ways to learn leadership is from your bosses – both good and bad ones. It’s a pretty simple technique – emulate the good ones and do the opposite of the bad ones.
Given that most of us will be lucky to have had the opportunity to work for even one great leader, the majority of our leadership lessons will have to come from the bad bosses.
Here’s a 10 examples of “do the opposite” lessons I’ve learned from former bad bosses:
1. The boss who never comes out of his/her office: the importance of being visible, communicating, and connecting with your employees.
2. The boss that plays obvious favorites: the importance knowing how to objectively assess performance, and basing rewards and recognition, assignments, and promotions on actual merit, not who sucks up the best.
3. The boss that never accepts responsibility for failure or mistakes: the importance of being accountable.
4. The boss who talked a good game but couldn’t execute: the importance of paying attention to the details, planning, and change management.
5. The boss with a temper: the importance of staying calm under fire.
6. The gossiping boss: the importance of discretion and confidentiality.
7. The “retired on the job” boss: the importance of always staying energetic, positive, competitive, and maintaining your physical fitness and appearance.
8. The know-it-all boss: the importance of genuine listening, and being open to learning.
9. The unethical boss: the importance of always doing the right thing, even when no one’s looking. Rule of thumb: would I be comfortable if my decision ended up published in the local/company newspaper?
10. The “buzz kill” boss: the importance of being aware of the effect you have on your employees, though your actions, words, and especially your reactions to their suggestions, accomplishments, or concerns.
How about you? What “do the opposite” lessons have you learned from a bad boss? Once you’ve identified those lessons, then just do what George Constanza did, and you’ll be the one getting those cards and thank-you's on Bosses Day!
Note: This Sunday, October 16, 2011 is National bosses Day (it’s actually observed on Monday). How about taking a moment to let your boss (and/or a former boss) know about something they do or did that you appreciate? Better yet, give your favorite boss a copy of Art Petty’s new book, Leadership Caffeine, Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development. Or just say thanks and buy the book for yourself – it’s a keeper, I’d highly recommend it. (-: