When Your Boss is a Knucklehead

I, like many people have had the great misfortune of working for someone who just wasn’t very smart. 

Or so I thought. 

The truth is, I had the great misfortune of thinking I was working for someone who wasn’t very smart. It took me longer than it should have to realize that someone higher up in the organization had the ability to see my boss’s strengths, an ability that I had yet to develop.

The thought that you are working for someone who is not as smart, skilled or as effective as you are only leads to frustration and it’s not the boss who is frustrated, it’s you.

So stop frustrating yourself by focusing on your boss’s weakness. Understand that so long as your boss is human they will have their share of shortcomings. Understand as well that so long as your boss is human they will likely possess unique strengths that add value to your organization. 

To limit your frustration find and focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses. 

It could also be that you are in fact smarter than your boss but they may possess a quality or characteristic that you lack. Be honest with yourself; it’s unlikely that you are truly perfect and completely devoid of skill or ability gaps. It’s possible that you’re missing a quality or characteristic that your boss’s boss believes is vital for your organization. Learn what you can from your boss to determine your personal development opportunities. It’s nice to have a boss that helps you develop but it’s actually your responsibility to develop yourself, don’t expect others to do it for you.

Lead up! If your boss indeed has “gaps” then accept it as your responsibility to fill those gaps. It could be that you were hired for that very purpose. If your boss is a good leader they likely identified their own gaps and hired you to do what they couldn’t. If that’s the case then being frustrated with your boss’s inability to do everything you can is just counterproductive and downright silly.

If none of this makes any sense to you then it’s possible that your boss is truly a knucklehead. If that’s the case perhaps you should consider making a move to greener pastures. But don’t consider it for long, either move or be quiet and do your job. Don’t, do not, not today, not tomorrow, not ever, hang around and become a disruptive negative force in your organization by constantly complaining about your boss. Move along, you can do better.

One more thing….if you at your third or fourth job and in every case your boss is a knucklehead then perhaps you should take a look at what (or who) all those jobs have in common. I’d suggest you start by looking in the mirror. 

You may not like what you see but at least you will see the real source of most knucklehead bosses. I know that’s harsh but one hard look could make every other look a whole lot easier.

8 thoughts on “When Your Boss is a Knucklehead

  1. I’m perplexed why leadership is so hard.

    My fave book on the topic is “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner. I’m also a facilitator for their workshop.

    Kouzes and Posner propose, based on decades of research of personal best leadership stories, the best leaders exemplify five practices:

    1 – Model the Way
    2 – Inspire A Shared Vision
    3 – Challenge the Process
    4 – Enable Others To Act
    5 – Encourage the Heart

    Common sense practices, right?

    Steve, I’m sure you’ve read a few books on leadership.

    Then why is leadership so hard? Why do we have knucklehead bosses?

    After all these years, the answer I’ve come up with is these bonehead leaders have worked for and modeled the incompetent behaviors of the leaders they’ve worked for in the past.

    They simply don’t know any better.

    • I think that’s exactly right Steve. Leadership characteristics can be taught but it is best learned by seeing it modeled. People see someone in a leadership position and assume they are a leader and then they model the behavior they see in that person.

      It goes on and on…

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