Any great leader faces a multitude of challenges every day. Whether it’s communicating strategy, helping people through change, holding on to excellence in the face of compromise, or just navigating the leadership environment, there is no shortage of development opportunities lurking in each day’s schedule.
Les McKeown has worked over the years with leaders on all of the challenges above–and many, many more. But surprisingly, the skill that he sees more leaders struggle with more than any other is relatively mundane (but very important): the ability to work with their team as an equal. To be “merely” a resource, rather than the team leader.
As we’ve seen, many leaders can only operate in one of two modes–in charge, or not there. In other words, once they join their team (virtually or otherwise), the team instantly defers to them, and they take the lead.
Truly great leaders have a third mode: The ability to sit with their team without needing to be in charge, using their subject matter knowledge just the same way as anyone else around the table would.
What do you do if you currently work for a leader that isn’t helping you? Michael Hyatt has some very insightful ideas. All five of these are spot on.
But what if you are in that situation right now? Here are five ways to cope:
- Manage your expectations. When you read a lot of books and blogs about leadership, it is easy to become idealistic. If you are not careful, you can create a set of expectations that no one could possibly meet. You have to remember your boss is human—and fallen at that. He struggles with his own fears, wounds, and weaknesses. He has his own accountabilities and pressure. He will experience good days and bad.
- Evaluate the impact. What kind of effect is your boss having on you and your teammates? Is he over-bearing and abusive? Incompetent or careless? Or is he checked out or inaccessible? I have worked in all of these situations and each of them requires a different response. Some are easier to put up with and manage around than others.
- Consider your options. If the situation is bad enough, it may warrant your resignation. I have only been in one job where I did this, and frankly—knowing what I know now—I wish I had stayed. But your circumstances may be different. Most situations provide an opportunity to learn, if you are alert and teachable. Some of the best lessons I ever learned were from bad bosses.
- Be assertive. Bad bosses have a way of creating a culture of fear, where people are afraid to speak up. But this may be the perfect opportunity for you to become more courageous. This doesn’t mean you have to be disrespectful. Nor does it require that you become inappropriately aggressive. Being assertive means giving voice to your needs and establishing clear boundaries.
- Support him publicly. Someone once said, “public support leads to private influence.” I think that is exactly right. When I have been in these situations, I have refused to publicly debate my boss or to gossip about him behind his back. I looked for positive attributes (everyone has them) and publicly affirmed them. I was loyal when he wasn’t present. This gave me credibility when I needed it later.