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How a Leader’s Behavior Affects Team Members

How a Leader’s Behavior Affects Team Members

When I worked at Countrywide/Bank of America, I worked under one of the harshest middle-managers in the company. My boss Rhonda was known throughout the company as a stickler to the rules who chose manuals and numbers over people. I spent a lot of time with her behind closed doors, working on priority projects that remained hidden from the average worker—I sat behind the curtains of Oz, helping to operate the gears and pulleys of one of the largest fraudulent machines in human history. How Rhonda convinced an honest and hardworking man to lend a hand in perpetrating widespread financial crimes for the largest bank in the United States illustrated to me how a leader’s behavior affects team members.

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    Trickle Down Effect

    When left to my own devices, I’m a good-natured, mild-mannered person; I never wish anyone any intentional harm. I was really a really good student in school, but I never really had much passion for anything in life. I loved music, but I was turned off to the industry. I ended up working in the mortgage industry for a subsidiary of Countrywide Home Loans. Having only rented up until that point, I didn’t know much about the company I started my career with.

    The atmosphere at Countrywide leading up to their bankruptcy and the subsequent financial crisis was interesting—everyone threw money around like it was water. There were expensive dinners, bonuses, and perks given to everyone. We were a well-oiled machine, and everyone was all smiles. This is because executives were making a killing at the expense of the American public. This led to bonuses and corporate spending accounts being handed out to middle-management, keeping them happy with what they do. On the bottom of the corporate ladder, temps and entry-level schmucks were forced to carry out the marching orders, oblivious that behind the shiny surface lay a mountain of deceit.

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    Whistle While You Work

    After discovering the systematic fraud inherent in both Countrywide and Bank of America’s business dealings, I decided to blow the whistle internally. This led to me losing my management position: I was no longer acting like the leader I was groomed to be by my leader. When I was strict and followed my barking orders from upper-management, I was seen as a golden child; a role model for other employees to emulate. I had been promoted from entry-level to management by drinking the company Kool-Aid, and by blowing the whistle, I was no longer wanted in that position.

    Soon afterward, I found myself moved to another side of the building, being handed impossible assignments with overdue deadlines. I made the decision then and there that I couldn’t handle throwing my life away at the expense of a frivolous attempt at exposing financial fraud; I wanted to take down the entire corrupt bank. I quit my job and started my journey as a solo whistleblowerthe type you see on the news. I was no longer in an official position of power, yet I displayed leadership skills, however unintentionally, and the effects were noticeable.

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    The Leader and The First Follower

    While being a leader is important, Derek Sivers explains in this TED talk that it’s actually the first follower who’s important. When I left the bank and became an official whistleblower, I was nothing more than a lone nut; nobody was following me. I had a Jerry Maguire moment where nobody was coming with me, and I knew better than to ask. I was temporarily stripped of all followers, and my leadership prowess was removed… or so the banks thought.

    After leaving the bank and facing their retaliation protocols (including facing the police on numerous occasions to prove my innocence from false charges filed by the bank), my tech background compelled me to seek out the hacktivist group Anonymous. At the time, I didn’t fully understand the power of Anon, but they believed in me and became my first follower. Because of their support, I was able to leak important documents and help start the Occupy movement.

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    Takeaways

    The moral of the story is that followers will emulate their leaderor more precisely, they’ll emulate the first follower, who follows the leader. Your attitude as a leader will trickle down to your followers, and the way you treat your subordinates is the way they’ll treat those who work below them. The number of possible layers of that depends on how nice you are. Eventually it reaches a point where people won’t tolerate abuse, and you better hope you’re well-defended by then.

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    Last Updated on March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

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