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8 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Your Terrible Bosses

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8 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Your Terrible Bosses

Terrible experiences can make for great lessons. Working for a terrible boss is stressful and unpleasant. Yet, you can grow a great deal from the experience if you reflect on your work. With the proper mindset, we can learn leadership lessons from saints and sinners. Here are some lessons you can learn from your terrible bosses.

1. Always lead by example

Terrible bosses lead by the example, whether they want to or not. If a manager yells at people in order to solve problems, that approach will become popular with the staff. In contrast, an effective leader will lead by example by staying up to date in their industry and showing courtesy to everyone.

2. Don’t keep people waiting for decisions

The speed and quality of decision-making is one of the traits that separates good bosses from terrible bosses. An ineffective boss makes decisions very slowly and appears to act in a random way. The best approach is to explain your decision-making process to your team — things like clearly stating that certain requests must be submitted in writing — and then make decisions using a consistent framework.

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Resource: Improve your decision-making by reading Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work By Chip and Dan Heath.

3. Don’t tolerate bad meetings

Meetings are an essential tool in the professional world. Without meetings, it would be incredibly difficult to assemble the facts, persuade people, and move an organization forward. Poorly trained bosses run meetings in a disorganized way that frustrates everyone involved. In contrast, an effective manager begins and ends the meeting on time and uses a written agenda.

Tip: Use 7 Habits of Highly Effective Meetings to improve your performance in meetings.

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4. Understand the importance of communication

Communication and persuasion are vital skills for managers and professionals to use in their work. A terrible boss speaks in corporate slang and makes no effort to connect with their team. Even worse, there are some managers who do all of their communication by email. A better approach to communication starts with recognizing the importance of communication skills. The next step is to develop active listening skills. True masters of communication take the time to studying public speaking methods and learn how to persuade.

Resource: 10 Powerful Public Speaking Tips from Some of the Best Speakers in the World.

5. Don’t micromanage

Micromanaging a person frustrates the individual and wastes the manager’s time. The bad manager will list each and every step and then dogmatically enforce the steps. In contrast, effective managers learn effective delegation skills: a clear scope and a deadline. A good manager would ask for specifics — “Please send me a one-page proposal explaining which business conferences you want to attend and why. The deadline for this proposal to me is this Thursday at noon.”

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Resource: Discover advice from 14 management experts on how to develop delegation skills.

6. Don’t insult your staff

There are many stressful situations at work – customer complaints, late deliveries, budget cuts, and more. Terrible bosses are ineffective at working through these challenges – they take their frustration out on their staff. Insulting and abusing your staff will damage the relationship and cause the best people in the department to start looking for new jobs. Rather than yelling at your staff, learn stress management techniques to address your feelings.

7. Don’t neglect vision and inspiration

Without an inspiring vision, people gradually lose interest in their work. Bad bosses ignore this problem and focus on day-to-day problems. The better approach is to develop a vision for the department and deliver it with enthusiasm. Learning how to inspire your people to achieve greater results takes practice, but there are great resources out there to help you.

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Resource: To develop your vision skills, watch this classic TED Talk: How great leaders inspire action by Simon Sinek. You will learn that “making money” will not cut it as a vision – the public and customers expect something more.

8. Don’t forget promises

Keeping promises is an excellent way to maintain your credibility. Terrible bosses rarely think through their commitments and make promises too quickly. A bad boss may promise a $10,000 raise immediately when you demand it, rather than taking a day or two to review the budget first. To avoid problems with communication, take a few extra moments to clarify commitments. For example, if you receive a request from an executive, clarify what you will provide — “I will provide a marketing plan regarding the expansion to China by August 31.”

Vague commitments and promises tend to lead to disappointment for everybody.

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Featured photo credit: Angry Man/ashishacoway via pixabay.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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