InsideOut Development

How To Be a Horrible Leader

by Bob Parsons


There is no shortage of horror stories about bad leaders. Almost on a daily basis, I hear from friends and colleagues alike about the impact poor leadership has on their engagement levels, confidence, and ability to execute. To be not only a good leader, but also a great one, you’ll want to avoid these three surprisingly common behaviors at all costs:

1. Reward your best employees by ignoring them. I knew a young lady who served at my local health club making minimum wage for five years. She told me that she recently decided to move onto another opportunity because she never saw her boss except for when he had negative feedback. She also never had a performance review, only received feedback from customers, and had to ask for all of her raises. In this case, the ignorance of the woman’s leader was a great contributor to another company snapping her up.

2. Say one thing to the higher-ups, but speak the opposite to the employee.  I know of a 22- year-old college student who was in the middle of completing her student teaching. One day, her university teaching evaluator showed up to assess her performance in the classroom. In the middle of the class, the evaluator called the young woman out and told her that her lesson was poorly designed. The young lady, almost in tears, responded, “Well, if you can hang on for a few more minutes, you will see this is part of the lesson plan.” The evaluator responded, “I will come back when you have done a real lesson plan.” The evaluator then went to the other teachers and evaluators after class and told them how incredible the student teacher is and that, “She would not hesitate to hire her.” Talk about speaking out of both sides of the mouth.

3. Allow interruptions and answer phone calls and emails during a career development discussion. A while back, I was having one of these conversations with the SVP of HR. During my 30-minute discussion, two people came into the office unannounced and had 5-minute conversations with the SVP.  The SVP apologized then went on to answer two “critically important” emails. I could not finish what I was saying because I was too distracted by everything that was going on. I felt like I was living in a Dilbert cartoon.

Bottom line, pay attention to your people. It costs you nothing other than your time and attention to be fully present with your employees and colleagues. Quit focusing on you. The best leaders are advocates for their employees. They give them undivided attention, listen to their ideas, and tell them what they are doing well. Raise your hand if you are sick and tired of all the positive feedback you have received.


Category: Focus Leadership Performance Teams Check-Ins and Feedback

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Bob Parsons is a highly trained Executive Coach and Talent Development Professional with over 30 years of experience helping clients take strategic action on their business initiatives. Bob has also taught at the University of Minnesota and St. Thomas University’s school of engineering. A former DJ and current Santa-for-hire, Bob lives in Apple Valley, Minnesota with his awesome wife of 31 years and his three great kids. His favorite super hero is The Flash and Mr. Incredible.

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