“There Is No Such Thing As A Bad Kid”

This is the title of a book published in 2017, and the gist is that before we label a child as “bad,” we need to dig into the causes of their disruptive behavior.

What does that have to do with leadership? [I am glad you asked.]

[Answer] Before we label a leader as “bad,” we need to dig into the causes of their disruptive behavior.

More often than you realize, employees believe those at the top of the org chart are “bad leaders.”

So, imagine that I conduct an employee survey for your company and then inform you that the feedback is, “a majority of your employees label you as a ‘bad leader!’”
Imagine your embarrassment!

I have worked for and with many executives and managers whose employees described as a ‘bad boss’ and because of my extensive research I’ve learned that:

  1.  17% of business leaders SHOULD NOT be in leadership at all because they lack the capability to lead anything or anyone. This group I call “Bad Bosses Group 1.”
  2.  34% of business leaders are untrained and lack the skills to lead. “Bad Bosses Group 2″. 
  3.   39% of business leaders have deficiencies that can be improved with the right training and coaching. “Bad Bosses Group 3.”

If you do the math, this means that only 10% of today’s leaders in the business space are GOOD LEADERS. These startling stats lead me to this Truism and Caveat about leaders.

  • There is no such thing as a Bad Leader*! There are many people in leadership roles who could benefit from training, coaching, and mentoring to become a Good Leader.

Caveat: If you do not continuously enhance your leadership skills, you will soon become among the 17% Incompetent Leaders (*BB Group 1) who should not hold a leadership position anywhere.


“I have a bad Boss because she does not know how to communicate with me.”

This is an example of my Truism. If your employee says this about you on a survey or to a coworker, it means 1) you are NOT a bad leader, and 2) your ability to communicate needs to be better.

“My Boss Ignores Me.”

This complaint signifies that you are overly focused on something other than your employees’ wants, needs, and feelings. Yes, you have tasks that need to get done, but the more that you ignore your employees, the more of your time they will suck up. A Good Leader does may things daily to help their employees feel satisfied and even happy. A happy employee is more productive and committed to their company and job.

“My Boss Makes Decisions without Consulting with Us!”

One human condition that we all share is the need to feel in control. So, when you make a crucial decision that affects your employees without discussing it, they feel that you do not care about them and make those decisions in the dark.

The Good Leader has open communications with all employees and does their best to supply context and the reasons for important decisions. The best way to do this is explain what is coming, long before it takes place. And the Good Leader allows employees to express their views in advance of changes.

“My Boss Does Not Support Me!”

I hear this lament all the time. Imagine being on a rope and wood bridge that crosses a deep chasm. It is so frightening that you don’t want to imagine how scared you would feel.

Almost all employees have a sensitivity to not being supported because in their minds, this condition is like falling off that awkward fragile bridge.

The Good Leader creates a Culture of Safety, one where employees don’t get feelings of embarrassment from crashing and burning or even making simple errors. Consider each day, what you could do help employees feel AND know that you have their backs, no matter what comes along.

By growing your People Skills, you get better results and more respect.

“My Manager Does Not Treat Me Fairly!”

This complaint usually means that you are playing favorites, whether you are conscious of this or not. It is normal to put more attention on the cooperative, pleasant, or more productive employee. However, the real issue is your inconsistency. Employees, just like children and dogs, feel when they are being ignored. And what does the ignored dog do? Tear up your best shoes.

Employees don’t eat shoes but they ‘get revenge by claiming that you are unfair. I suggest that your ask a more experienced leader to mentor you, especially on ways to treat all employees equally. My second suggestion is for you to track the time that you spend with each of your employees. If it is not approximately equal, then your employee’s lament it true.

“My Boss Won’t Speak to My Coworker Who is Being Disruptive!”

Nearly everyone is afraid of having difficult conversations. That talk with 1) a disruptive employee; 2) an employee who does not conform, 3) a coworker who trash talks openly. To become a great leader, you must believe in yourself and have the courage to hold these crucial conversations.

Employees who are not held to account for unprofessional behaviors are like a match dropped in a dry forest. The problem grows rapidly and spreads like (you guessed it) wildfire. Coworkers suffer.

If you fear difficult conversations, ask a trusted colleague to role play with you. As you practice finding the right words to say to your pretend disrupter, you will gain confidence which sparks courage.

“Whenever the Manager Enters the Room, He Creates Instant Chaos!”

In this common scenario, the group’s leader is fostering tension. The leader may not know it or is oblivious to what they are doing and saying. The primary issues are 1) the leader is not self-aware, and 2) the leader is not held to account for the negative impact they have.

The solution for both causes is a lack of feedback. No leader is above the need to have someone provide them with truthful feedback. And this leader’s employees do not have a way to ‘complain’ to another leader further up the org chart. This lack of honest feedback across and upwards shows a systemic problem. Leaders are allowed to exist in a feedback-free bubble. Not Good!

“My Boss Is Like a Butterfly. She Flits About and Doesn’t Get Anything Accomplished!”

Even though you might assume that someone in a leader’s role should know how to be centered and poised, every leader can suffer from a lack of focus and feelings of overwhelm, which lead to wasted effort.

Like the scenario before this, the prime issue is the lack of honest feedback from employees to their boss and to the boss from those who supervise them.

Feedback is information that you, a leader, needs to become better. And in the absence of feedback the leader can believe they are acting appropriately, when in fact they are causing chaos, stirring up fear, and instilling confusion in their employees and others.

Whenever I partner with a company to assess the quality of its leadership, I start by asking, “Do you use a formal 360-degree feedback system, other than performance evaluations?” An answer of “No!” shows their culture has a weakness that needs fixing at once.

How effective is your organization’s feedback system outside of the one provided in your performance evaluation process?

“My supervisor often gives me projects and assignments where I don’t feel that I have skills or training!”

The CAUSE of situations like this one is a Self-fulfilling Principle: very few of today’s leaders were trained in leadership. Therefore, this unskilled influencer treats employees like they are (were) treated. E.g., “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, so I can’t help you because I don’t know.”

The primary EFFECTS from this CAUSE are: 1) the employees are expected to fly without a net, or 2) the leader feels unsure and hides it, or 3) the leader does not really understand the work and skills needed for the job.

“I have a feeling that my Boss is in over his head!”

An unsure leader who is affected by the Peter Principle shows up as either disengaged or overly controlling.

I hope you can now see the connection between these two complaints and those in my most recent posts.

  • A person who holds an influencing role and who has not been fully trained and coached on how to lead will foster countless problems.

These problems that quickly manifest into a belief in their employees that they are a “Bad Leader.”

Five years!

That’s how long it usually takes to transform a skilled employee into a good leader. My advice is that you implement organizational improvements by making a commitment to supply ongoing leadership for all leaders, seasoned and novice. By doing this you reduce employee turnover and enhance your organization’s future.

Ron Rael Leadership Provocateur, is a keynote speaker, consultant, and author.

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