How to Suck at Leadership

By Holly G. Green

Have you ever woken up in the morning and said to yourself, “I’m tired of being a good leader. Today, I want to suck at it.”?

Well, today’s your lucky day!

Based on the lack of integrity exhibited by many in the public and private sectors, it’s clear that the desire to be a lousy leader runs deep these days. So if you’re looking to take your leadership abilities to a new low, here are some useful tips.

Leadership skill: Managing employees.
Suck: Don’t conduct regular one-on-ones with your direct reports.
Really suck: Go ahead and schedule the one-to-ones. Then cancel them at the last minute, using some lame excuse that both you and the employee know is bogus.

Leadership skill: Being open to diverse data sources.
Suck: Don’t allow others to disagree with you or have dissimilar views.
Really suck: Encourage people to bring up new ideas by saying things like, “That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard!” Be sure to do it publicly, so everyone can see how much you love innovative thinking. When you’re done berating the employee, ask (with all sincerity), “Anyone else have any ideas they would like to bring up?”

Leadership skill: Giving ongoing performance feedback.
Suck: Don’t give employees candid or direct feedback. None. Nada. Zippo. Instead, assume they will just “get it.”
Really suck: Hold them accountable at annual review/merit increase time for things you never told them about.

Leadership skill: Updating your thinking/ways of working.
Suck: Don’t change the way you do things because they always worked in the past.
Really suck: Ignore and/or suppress obvious data that shows the way you always do things is no longer working and is actually putting your business in jeopardy. Then punish those who had the audacity to present the data in the first place.

Leadership skill: Engaging employees.
Suck: Don’t solicit or answer questions from employees.
Really suck: Make a big deal about having an open door and “open ear” policy. Then act really annoyed when employees come to you with questions, feedback and input.

Leadership skill: Leading effective meetings.
Suck: Don’t prep for meetings. Just run in (late) and hope you’re effective.
Really suck: Schedule last-minute meetings (very important ones, of course) that force people to rearrange their schedules. Then don’t show up because something else came up. Bonus suck: Don’t apologize because everyone knows your time is more important than theirs.

Humor aside, most of us want to be effective leaders. The problem is that we’re all running so fast to keep up that we don’t pause for a moment to do what effective leaders do. To be a great leader, start every day by thinking about it. Take a few moments each morning to focus on what will make a difference a year from now, and then don’t let the deluge of distractions get in the way. I know…easier said than done. But the alternative is to suck as a leader, whether we want to or not.


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