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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 September 20, 2018

    How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

    How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

    If you’re going to spend 1/3 of our life at work, you should enjoy it, right?

    Trust me, I know that’s easier said than done. Difficult coworkers, less-than-desirable tasks, or even just being in the wrong position can all lead to a lack of enjoyment and fulfillment in your work.

    But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? Or better yet, if you struggle with all of the above (and then some), what if I told you that enjoying your work and finding fulfillment regardless of those obstacles is possible?

    Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you because I was there too. Before implementing the tips below, I struggled to get through each day, much less find real fulfillment, in the office. Now, even after the toughest days on the job, I still come away with feelings of pride, accomplishment, and fulfillment. The best news is, so can you.

    If you’re ready to make those hours count and find happiness and fulfillment in the office, then read on to find out how to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career:

    1. Discover the root(s) of the problem

    For this first step, we’ll need to think back to 8th-grade physics (humor me). We all know Newton’s 3rd law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When you think about it, the same can be said outside of physics, and we see this law play out in our daily lives, day after day.

    Simply put, all the issues we deal with in the office (and life in general) affect us in a noticeable way.

    If you’re appreciated at work, like the work you do and receive frequent praise, promotions, or raises, then this will probably have an altogether positive effect on your life in the office.

    But what if we reverse this? What if you feel under appreciated, get passed up for promotions, or get denied raises? This is sure to affect the way you feel at work on a negative level.

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    So, before you can implement the steps of feeling happy and fulfilled at work, we first have to discover the reasons why you don’t feel that way already.

    Think about it, write a list, or make a mental note. Run through all the reasons you’re dissatisfied in the office, and don’t hold back. Knowing the exact obstacles you’re facing will make overcoming them that much easier.

    In fact, as a side-challenge to this article, I recommend picking the top three reasons contributing to your dissatisfaction at work and using the following tips to tackle them.

    2. Practice gratitude for an instant uplift

    Did you know the simple act of feeling grateful can increase your happiness and make you more fulfilled at work?[1]

    Well, it’s true, and it’s scientifically proven.

    Dr. Lisa Firestone notes that practicing gratitude “reminds us of what we lacked in the past.” Meaning, it serves as both a boost to happiness and a bit of a wake-up call that things have been or could be, much worse.

    Trying to conjure up feelings of gratitude can seem almost impossible when your work situation seems bleak, but hear me out: There are incredibly easy ways to get started and it doesn’t involve trying to “force” yourself to feel grateful about things that stress you out.

    For an instant pick-me-up, try this:

    Find a loose piece of paper, a blank sticky note, or anything you can write on, be it physical or digital. List just three things that you are absolutely without-a-doubt thankful for in your life.

    Now here’s the trick: Don’t just list what you’re grateful for, you have to list why you’re grateful for them, too.

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    For example, simply saying “I’m grateful for my kids” will probably make you feel good, sure, but what if we could amplify the warm, fuzzy feeling into real, lasting motivation?

    Instead, write the reason you’re so thankful for your children. Is it because they make you laugh and forget about other stressors? Or maybe they help to remind you of why you go to work every day in the first place?

    Whatever your reasons may be, jot them down and keep your list somewhere you can see it while you work. A quick glance at your gratitude list throughout the day can provide powerful, positive motivation to keep going.

    Bonus:

    If you can find just three things to be thankful for that specifically relate to your job, and list why those things make you grateful, your list can also help you find fulfillment in your work itself which can give you an even bigger boost of positivity throughout the day.

    3. Take meaningful time for yourself

    We all know creating a strong work-life balance can be crucial to feeling satisfied in our jobs, but rarely do we ever address how we’re spending our time outside of work.

    Many of us survive a 9-hour work day and commute home only to find ourselves busy with our personal to-do lists, running a household, and taking care of a child (or 2 or 3, and so on).

    If you spend all your time working, whether in the office or within your household, you’re going to feel drained at some point. This is why setting meaningful time for yourself every day is highly important.

    Look, I get it: I don’t know anyone in the working world who can shun all responsibility for a 3-movie marathon or happy hour with friends whenever they feel like it. But finding time for yourself, be it just 30 minutes to an hour, can really make a difference in how you feel at work.

    This works because you’ll have time to actually relax and let the day’s stress melt away while you enjoy something just for you. The to-do lists and stressors will still be there after you’re refreshed and ready to tackle them.

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    No time for me-time? Try this:

    If you have a busy household, you’ll need to capitalize on a block of time you know will be completely uninterrupted. The easiest way to do this: try waking up 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual (or push bedtime back an hour if you’re a night owl, like me) and take time to do something you enjoy.

    This could be reading with a cup of tea, catching up on Facebook, spending time on a passion project—anything! As long as it’s meaningful to you, it works!

    Bonus:

    Starting your day with meaningful time for yourself can set you up to have a positive mood that lasts well into office hours, and having your me-time in the evening can give you something positive to look forward to during the day.

    4. Get productive and feel accomplished

    Don’t you just love the feeling of checking the last item off of a hefty to-do list? That’s because self-motivation can be a huge driver of positivity and success.

    When we accomplish something, no matter how small, it makes us feel good, plain and simple. Applying this tactic to your daily work can be the motivator you need to find fulfillment during the daily office grind.

    While there are tons of steps to get more done at work, I’ll share my personal favorite: Prioritizing.

    Now, many people handle prioritizing differently. Some like to tackle the little tasks first so they can spend focused time on the big to-dos. Others like to knock out the big items first and get to the smaller ones when they can.

    No matter which camp you’re in, you may be missing one crucial step: Time management.

    So how’s this work? When you factor in the amount of time your priorities will take, it can transform your productivity ten-fold.

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    Say you have three top priorities for the day. You might jump into the smaller ones or the bigger ones depending on your preferred method, and then find yourself out of time and bringing work home with you at the end of the day.

    This is prevented when you factor in time. Knowing how long each item will take, or deliberately setting specific blocks of time for your priorities can help you accomplish more in the same 8-9 (or 12) hours that you typically spend at work.

    Try this:

    Take a look at your priorities and consider how long they should take. Pop into your Google calendar (or Filofax, whatever works for you) and schedule time to work on your priority items around any important meetings or events of the day.

    The most important thing to remember is to stick to your dedicated time.

    Often, when we know exactly how long we have to work on something (and honor this time limit), we’re motivated to get more done on time to avoid taking work home at the end of the day.

    The bottom line

    There’s no need to waste 1/3 of our lives feeling unsatisfied at work. Luckily, you now have the tools to get started, take back your time, and become happy and fulfilled at work again.

    The only question is — which tip will you try first?

    Featured photo credit: Ellyot via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1]Psychology Today: The Healing Power of Gratitude

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