5 Leadership Styles Good Bosses Avoid Like the Plague
It’s not crazy to think that you’ll become a leader in some capacity within your lifetime, whether a middle manager, senior director, or even a CEO. This advance is likely to be accompanied by the following: a bump in salary, a title change, and most importantly, increased responsibility.
People often forget about that last part when they’re dreaming of titles. But let me tell you, it isn’t easy. Leading others is a big undertaking in which you need to be able to manage not only your own tasks, but your employees’ workloads and goals, as well as the team dynamic, too. With so many things to keep track of, it’s easy to become one of those bosses no one can stand. (And I know that in your head you’re picturing one of those people right now and getting annoyed.)
According to Dr. Travis Bradberry, President at TalentSmart and co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, being managed by someone who really isn’t good at it can be a deal breaker. Says Bradberry, “Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun, while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.”
So if you’d like to steer clear of your employees calling it quits because of you, try to avoid the following management styles.
1. The Know-it-All
Yes, you were chosen for a reason. But that reason is not because you know everything about everything. No matter what your title is, there’s always something to learn. Especially from your own team who works day in and day out on your part of the business. They’re likely to have smart and innovative solutions and ideas–possibly to problems you’re not even aware exist.
“Being the best isn’t about knowing the most. Being the best is about confidently admitting you don’t know it all, while embracing every opportunity to learn and grow from the wisdom of others. Have confidence in your ability to learn, not in the amount of information you already know. Always remember that wisdom comes from gaining knowledge and experience over the course of time—not a day or a week—but over a lifetime, so never stop learning,” says Amy Rees Anderson, Managing Partner of REES Capital.
When someone you manage (or anyone, really) has a better idea than you or knows something you don’t, that’s not a bad thing. It actually makes your job easier, because you don’t have to have all the answers.
2. The Micromanager
Managing people can be daunting—the performance of your team reflects directly back on you. And this may tempt you to hold their hands every single step of the way to ensure the job is done right.
But this is a major productivity roadblock. When you spend a good portion of your time breathing down their necks, you’re limiting the amount of time you can dedicate to your own work. Not to mention, it also puts you at risk for losing track of the big picture.
As Eytan Dallal, Vice President of IT at Land of Lincoln Health explains, “Managers should delegate and manage from a distance. Employees should be held accountable for their decisions and work product, and need to be empowered with the ability to own their decisions and take risks. Most importantly, employees need managers to stand behind them, not on top of them.”
That means that if you insist on standing on top of them, you’re likely stifling their creativity, making them feel incompetent, and just plain bugging the crap out of them. None of this is fun—and you’ll just end up with a bunch of annoyed and disengaged individuals.
3. The Absentee Boss
Sure, managers should manage from a distance, as Dallal said, but that doesn’t mean you should disappear completely.
It may be nice at first to have a boss who never checks in, but after a while, having a supervisor who is never seen nor heard gets old. Employees want and deserve a certain degree of autonomy, yes, but they also want and need guidance, feedback, and validation that they are on the correct path.
Being MIA can only really result in one of two situations—your employees feel unsupported and don’t know where to go, so they halt progress and do nothing. Or, they decide to move forward sans your input, everything goes haywire, and you have no way to explain it to your boss. Neither is good.
4. The Self-Server
Self-serving leaders will do whatever it takes to make themselves shining stars in their own boss’ eyes. And they don’t really care if they have to use someone else to do it.
The employees being used, however, will most definitely care and will start to resent you. Furthermore, they’re likely to stop offering up ideas or working any harder than necessary. After all, where has it gotten them so far?
The worst part about managers with a self-serving agenda? Not only will they take all the credit for the good things that happen, but they’ll deny, deny, deny, and point fingers at others—including their own team—when goals aren’t met.
5. The Best Friend
When you spend five days of the week working closely with others, it can be easy to develop a bond with them. But becoming besties with your direct reports is a tricky situation to put yourself in.
It could cause you to give someone a pass where you wouldn’t normally (“Oh, you forgot to submit the application for the grant on time? No biggie! We’ll try again next year”), or not provide him with 100% honest feedback in fear of hurting his feelings.
While your employees may appreciate it in the moment (after all, you’re a cool, chill, laidback boss!), they most likely won’t in the long run, as your failure to provide them with constructive criticism limits growth. Not to mention, when they know every intimate detail about your personal life, they’ll find it harder to respect you as a leader.
This doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with the people you work with; you just need to redefine what this type of friendship means. As Kristi Hedge, Principal of The Hedges Company, Managing Partner of Element North, and author of The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others, says, “You have those lifelong friends that let you cry on their shoulder, and you have business friends who you laugh and commiserate with over workplace follies. Both are equally legitimate friendships – the relationship dynamics are just a little bit different.”
When you get a chance to lead others, pat yourself on the back—you worked hard and you deserve it. Though it may be intimidating, you have it in you to be a great boss. Remember: The main part of your newly acquired duties is not simply making sure your team hits goals, but how you get those people to accomplish that. By just avoiding the leadership styles described above, you’ll be well on your way to getting there.
About The Author
Abby is the Health Education Coordinator at American University in Washington, DC. When she’s not trying to make the world a healthier place, you can find her taking selfies with her cat (Mildred Meow Meow), hunting down the city's best grilled cheese, or zipping through the city on her bike, named Libby. Say hi on Twitter.