The Tyrant and the Team
When I was young I worked a few different jobs, for a few different bosses. Some of my favourite jobs were for leaders that many would consider aggressive tyrants. They had high expectations. They wanted the job done right. They were all in and could not afford to be wrong. What these individuals taught me was that, although I didn’t particularly like them, I respected the organization and its culture. Looking back, I noticed those assertive, nit-picky, demanding bosses built some really kick-ass teams. Teams who were stronger because of the high demands placed on everyone.
BUT, these teams didn’t last. Eventually, my co-workers got tired of the micromanagement and moved on. They wound up being highly sought after, because of their job skills and their ability to deal with pressure and meet expectations. They knew how an effective team operated and they usually wound up in leadership careers. Tyrannical bosses grow productive people, but they do not foster longevity among their teams. Staying power can only be gained through a mutually beneficial relationship of reciprocation, between the leader and follower. Loyalty begets loyalty.
Other False Idols
As the years progressed, I was blessed with many other leaders, who’s styles were much more akin to give and take. However, not all were effective. So, how does one avoid the pitfalls of poor leadership. I don’t have all the answers, but like you, I know the types that immediately turn me away from following a particular lead:
- The Brute. This is the tyrannical leader that demands and asserts, instead of inspiring and influencing. This leader is accustomed to calling the shots and doesn’t appreciate good ideas from others.
- The Bully. This person leads through intimidation and manipulation, hiding his or her aggressive nature behind a veil of loyal minions. Just like a school-yard bully, this leader camouflages their own deficits and lack of confidence, with feigned innocence and surface sweetness. Meanwhile, enforcing an iron-fist rule through gossip, favoritism and exclusion.
- The Ghost. This leader is either overwhelmed or inept, and disappears behind closed doors for hours, days or weeks. The ghost is difficult, if not impossible, to find when the shit hits the fan. Regardless of how they arrived in their position of authority, they are probably in over their head.
- The Yes-Man (or woman). This type of leader is more concerned with climbing the corporate or social ladder, than doing right for the organization. Although middle-managers are definitely answerable to the next level of authority, Yes-leaders are far too busy glad-handing and ass-kissing to be in touch with the followers that truly need them.
- The Superfriend. Some leaders are more consumed with popularity than efficacy. The Superfriend tries to please everyone, especially the squeaky wheels. Unfortunately, this leader inadvertently abdicates his or her authority to the bullies within the organization, by kowtowing to manipulation tactics and avoiding bad press.
I’m sure we have all experienced (if not attempted) these faulty versions of leadership. If you recognize them, then rest assured you are not the only one. They are familiar to us, because they are more prevalent than they should be, but fear not…Knowing is the first step toward change. If you see yourself in any of these styles of authority, don’t self-flagellate and berate your less-than-enlightened self. Take stock of your practices and begin new ones, starting with authenticity.
The Answer is Always Authenticity
If the subject of authenticity is a bit daunting, try asking yourself the following questions:
- Am I acting in accordance with my own values and those of the organization?
- Am I being truthful?
- Am I growing trust and autonomy among my team?
- Am I present in body and mind?
- Do I care about the outcome for all or just for me?
I recently had a friend and client share with me an experience that prompted her to abandon a leader that she followed, respected and loved for many years. I recall the overwhelming emotion with which shared her decision and I felt her loss and heartbreak. The details of her ‘break-up’ were relatively unimportant. What mattered was the palpable feeling of betrayal and the realization that her fearless leader was not living up to the values and commitments promised. Leaders make mistakes, this is fact. But true leadership grows from honesty, trust and the ability to acknowledge your f*ck-ups and rectify them. Neglect of these traits will surely lead to loss of loyal people.
How will my friend find the right person to fill the void left by a woman she had trusted to marshal her through some tough terrain? Some clues to find a leader, mentor or coach in business, career or life can be summed up with one word, HEART.
Leaders are real and authentic people with an eye for perpetual improvement. Leaders are the resilient and strong load-bearers. They are the genuine and fearless truth-tellers. They are the humans that want the best for those in their charge and they do the hard work of building courage, competence and accountability among their entire team. They are not pushovers, nor are they clambering up the ranks for personal gain. Leaders get up after a fall, bruised and embarrassed, but ready to take another shot. Leaders crave challenge and they value people. They lift you up when you need it. In short, leaders love.