In the month of June, I think about bad bosses. I will keep the reasons why to myself, what I want to share are some of my reflections.
I am thinking of such challenging bosses, and I am grateful to them. I thank them for noticing me, giving me a chance, and for showing me that I could accomplish more than I believed myself. They would not let me fall into complacency, over-served challenge, and under-served caring. I remember them driving me crazy with endless requests coming my way always, vacations and sick leaves be damned. I also think of all the bosses I got to know about from my clients. I know this breed is still in charge in many places – setting outlandish visions, provoking, challenging, and ‘leading from the top’ with larger-than-life charisma, endless lung power, and a heavy hand. Today I am grateful to all those bosses for setting me on an exciting and rewarding executive career, for the interesting projects I lead, and for connecting me with great people. Together with my clients, we acknowledge bosses giving the young executives an ‘early’ promotion, opening their networks, providing exposure to senior management, and pushing them out of the comfort zone. Because of bosses like that people are set in motion, and they do not stop.
Here’s to all of you charismatic visionaries: Thank you for noticing us early in our careers, for seeing our potential, for caring to challenge us, and for cracking our worlds open.
I also cannot forget that with all those growth opportunities often comes manipulation dressed as coaching, the unpredictability of passing blame and withdrawing credit, dumping down contradicting tasks, withholding information, and all those management meetings starting in remote locations, always on Monday. I nod with understanding when my clients talk about corporate ‘schizophrenia’ around priorities, values, and culture. I hear them mention the corporate ‘dance’, the holding of people as headcount. I know all those moves because I too have picked up many of these bad leadership models, many more than I’d like to admit. Too many to unlearn in a lifetime. Enough to keep me awake thinking about my impact… These days, I am invited to hold teams recovering from toxic leadership and coach leaders as they work to undo the impact of short-sighted business decisions and strategies designed to serve nothing but the previous manager’s ego.
Here is to you, narcissists, sociopaths, and egomaniacs in the corner office: Thank you for demonstrating what leads businesses to ruin, teams to demotivation, employees to disenfranchisement, and cynicism. Thank you for teaching us how not to lead.
I am grateful to the bad bosses who impacted my life and the lives of my clients.
We remember you and we are awake. We are motivated to be different and to grow a different kind of leaders. Those who are human and vulnerable. Those who choose to be in a relationship with their world. Those aware that leadership touches lives, and as such ought to be human. Those who practice Radical Candor. Those who walk the talk, care to connect, who always show up, do what’s needed, face the implications, and create from them.
In the month of June, I cheer to bad bosses:
Here’s to you and to your era that is ending. Have it while we are working to grow wholehearted leaders coming to replace you.
Featured image: The Company of Captain Pieter Dircksz Hasselaer and Lieutenant Jan Gerritsz Hooft, Amsterdam. Date: c. 1595-1605. Institution: Rijksmuseum. Provider: Rijksmuseum. Providing Country: Netherlands. Public Domain