What if I’m a really terrible leader?

bad leaderLeadership has taken on dimensions that require a full time focus. Unfortunately, there are other requirements in the workplace – and almost no time to concentrate on becoming ‘the best leader that ever lived in the universe’. So what now? Do we pack up our stuff and resign ourselves to the cubicle next to the toilets? I think NOT.

 Play to your strengths and OWN your weaknesses

If you are in a senior role that supports a team there is likely something that got you there. Whether this is technical ability or problem solving genius… you’ve done something that stands out. That doesn’t go away just because you can’t ‘motivate’ others to jump into the fountain at the company year-end party. If you struggle to nurture or develop people, if you struggle to empathize or support – it doesn’t make you a bad person, or a useless employee.

Lower the bar

Overachievers don’t accept anything less than ‘the best’. When we set standards that are virtually impossible to achieve, we aren’t doing ourselves any favours. In fact, the pressure of achieving ‘The Best’ status prevents us from acknowledging improvements… because we are still so far away from where we want to be. I’m not advocating giving up – I’m saying ‘get real’. What is really possible?

Don’t be a jerk about it

Just because we aren’t able to achieve our goals of being a super hero leader, doesn’t mean it is ok to act like a jerk about it. Admitting that you struggle with something might just allow people to see that you are human. They might even be willing to go the extra mile for you. Don’t mess up this kink of human nature (cheering the underdog) by becoming a tyrant. A boss can get things done by power – don’t be THAT boss!

It’s not about you

Being a great leader is not about you – it’s about your team. It’s about their goals, their abilities, leadershiptheir experience. For people wired to ‘win’ it is a challenge to put away the ego. It’s amusing to watch people pursue ‘leadership’ the same way they would for presentation skills or reading financial statements. Leadership is about the results you achieve through others (because they want to).  We are leaders when our teams are engaged, developed, heard, supported, stretched and willing. We don’t learn leadership, it is a result of our behaviour. What effect does your behaviour have on your team?


Some people are natural leaders – for the rest of us it’s about taking it one step at a time. We don’t have to go from one extreme to the other. We can improve gradually by making small tweaks. It’s about eating the elephant one bite at a time.

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