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7 Bad Habits That Made Me a Terrible Boss

| November 4, 2014

by Jim Bruce

The Tuesday Reading today is “7 Bad Habits That Made Me a Terrible Boss”.  This essay first appeared in where its author, John Brandon, writes the Tech Report column.  He is also a contributing editor at Inc. magazine.

Brandon has frequently written about his mistakes and how to he was a terrible leader.  The habits he writes about here are some that “lingered longer than they should have.”  Think about whether any of his bad habits might just afflict your leadership as well:

1. He expected good communication from employees but didn’t communicate well himself.  Brandon expected his project leads to provide regular updates and to let him know about budgets and personnel issues.  But, he didn’t pay them the same courtesy – he didn’t talk much about his own challenges, the organization’s vision and strategies, or budget.

2.  He promoted people before they were ready.  Wanting his team to succeed, he often promoted good people, whether they were ready for promotion or not, because he was afraid that they would leave.  Putting someone in charge of a task or a team when he or she is not ready makes the entire team look bad and creates even more problems.

3.  He charged in with guns blazing.  Rather than asking questions to understand what was going on and looking for resolution, he roared in, raising his voice to make a point, threatening to fire the offending individual, and so on.  Brandon eventually learned that behavior like this didn’t really work.

4.  He bought hardware he liked without knowing if there was a need.  Year-end budget surplus, see a machine you just have to have (of course with all the bells and whistles) and buy one for everyone on the team.  Do this whether or not the hardware was needed, met expected future needs, etc.  There are many variations of this “habit.”  E.g., trips to conferences for more people than should go, conferences of minimal value, etc.

5.  He took too much pride in his role.  Good pride comes from knowledge, good results, and humble leadership.  Bad pride is “where we get value and purpose in life solely from our lofty position…. Bad bosses always act like they’re on a pedestal looking downward.”

6.  He thought he knew everything.  It’s easy to fall into this trap and when you do, you treat all around you as second-class citizens.  Leaders often have problems admitting that one of their staff knows more than they do, can do a particular task better than they can, etc.  We all have such staff around us and we would do well and get better results were we to help them step forward.

7.  He didn’t share his vision enough.  Brandon noted that much of his work involved distilling complexity and this is what sharing a vision often requires.  Yet he didn’t help his staff know where the team was going, expecting them to read his mind.  This he said was his worst mistake of all.

Looking back over my own career as a leader, I know that I made many of these same mistakes.  You may have done that as well.  Use Brandon’s essay as a reminder that these are traps that we can easily fall into and evaluate how you might sharpen your game.

Have a great week.  .  .  .   jim