After I wrote my last article, I started thinking about the “bad boss” syndrome. I’ve heard friends vent and read articles about the problems caused by bad bosses. But with the exception of the rare true bully, I really doubt that those people have chosen to be bad bosses. In reality, they just don’t know how to be an effective leader.
How well are managers trained for leadership?
In many organizations, people work their way up through the ranks. They may be dedicated employees that have been with the company for a long time, and we want to give them those opportunities. But how many of those people ever had management training?
Consider that while some have business school training, many have come in through other disciplines. For example, if a scientist has been very successful in his or her work – maybe they get promoted to head of the department. Often, no one seems to realize that there is a completely different skill set to leading people! And does anyone explain or provide the training necessary for them to know how to be an effective leader?
Why do we assume that being an effective leader just comes naturally?
Failing to recognize that Management is a discipline
Just like Science, there are specific methods for management. But often, there is no recognition of the specialized techniques required.
We assume that someone can just “pick it up” as they go. We might assume they have watched and learned from their own supervisors. And this can be very dangerous! So that bad manager that only talks (yells) at you when you make mistakes has learned this approach from his/her own manager! Because they have seen this approach to performance appraisals, without any proper training on how to do performance management, the viscous cycle is continued!
Consider our natural biases
No doubt, there are some people that just pick up leadership skills more easily. But do they really? Or is it just because we like them? Or that they always agree with us?
We all need to be aware of our tendency for bias, which may be unconscious. Often, we only look at one aspect of a leader. Perhaps they are just naturally good with talking to people and make us feel good. But on the other side – do they have the know how to lead the organization through difficult situations? Do they know how to analyze, assess and make tough decisions?
Thinking that Leadership is a Personality Aspect
We often think of the “born leader” – someone that is charismatic. But quiet, humble people can be good leaders too! Maybe they do it in a different way. But behind the “personality” is a set of leadership skills.
Consider that there are many aspects to leadership – some are more “soft” whereas others are more “hard” skills. And like any other skill, learning how to be an effective leadership comes through both knowledge and application (experience).
How do we empower effective leadership?
First of all, organizations need to recognize effective leadership as part of their organizational culture. Without that foundation, they will continue to cut corners and perpetuate bad habits. If you have a culture that just accepts “bad bosses”, or points fingers at them for the problems – it’s unlikely that you will ever rise above and be the type of organization that employees want to stay with.
Organizations need to promote people that have a true desire to be effective leaders, not just because you want to reward them with a promotion. And if they have the desire, but not the skills – be sure to provide them with the training and direction they need. Perhaps those that aspire to leadership could start developing those skills early in their career, such that they are prepared when the opportunity comes?
And finally, be sure to monitor and provide feedback to managers, just like you would with other employees. New Managers and those from non-management disciplines may need some coaching and support to develop leadership skills. We all need to understand what is expected of us and how we can improve.
Learn more about Leadership Development & Training
You can learn more about how to be an effective leader through our regular articles and enews. And you can visit our website to learn about our range of online training and support to develop effective leadership and management skills in your organization.