Sunday, August 8, 2010


For a little over a year now I've had to deal with the Worst Boss Ever at work. Due to some restructuring and reorganizing, he became the manager of our department and it was disastrous. He has no people skills or leadership skills. At all. He knew everything ("With my HR/Risk Managment/Database/ background..." or my favorite "I worked security at a concert once.") He liked to throw around his title ("As I am the manager...") He lied frequently about things big and small. He didn't want anyone to do anything without asking permission first (including for example answering questions about incidental matters directly pertaining to my job). He couldn't stand any questioning or criticism of anything he decided. He talked down to everyone. He stopped talking to you if you called him on his bullshit and issued orders to you by proxy.

In short, he's scum and working for him was a nightmare.

Thankfully, he was recently removed from his position. Due to another restructuring (for "budget" reasons) he no longer has anyone working for him (but he got to retain his manager title *eyeroll*). This has had the magical effect of dramatically raising the morale of everyone in the department. I've also stopped looking for another job. It's made me think a lot about leadership, though, and how companies really seem to struggle to find good leaders.

The greatest leader ever.

I have risen to a leadership position in a number of the jobs I have worked. In fact, I was a closing shift manager at Taco Bell when I was 16. How did I earn these promotions? By working hard and being competent at my job. It wasn't necessarily because I displayed any leadership qualities. Did I receive any training on how to lead or manage people when I was promoted? Nope. I was thrown to the wolves and expected to succeed.

So, as it is, much of what I know about being a leader has come from my own trial and error and watching leaders around me. This recent manager of mine was kind enough to teach me a whole lot about what not to do. The thing is that nearly everyone has worked for or seen in action some really pathetic supervisor. Why is that? I would think that companies would have an incentive to provide training and direction on leadership skills to people in those positions, but they often do not. Competence at a non-leadership job somehow seems to translate into "This person has management potential."

Bad leaders don't just have a negative impact on the people working for them, but on the company as a whole. People are not as motivated so they aren't as productive as they could be. People leave to find other employment and another person has to be trained to take their position. Why wouldn't a company want to prevent this from happening instead of encouraging it by setting people up to fail?

Any leadership training will naturally have to include lessons learned from watching Kirk in action.

UPDATE: Fixed picture.

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