Most people reading this will have at one time or another worked for someone who is in a leadership position but doesn’t lead. Maybe you’re in that spot right now.
So what does a person do when their leader doesn’t lead?
There are three choices. The first one is to change where you work. Running from the problem is too easy and besides, there are no guarantees that your leader at the next place will be any better.
The second option is to spend every working minute, and sadly many non-working minutes as well, being frustrated with the person who is supposed to be leading you to success. That ruins your relationship with that person. Let’s not forget, just because they are a bad leader doesn’t mean they don’t have some influence on your future. Being frustrated and complaining about it all the time can also wreck other important relationships in your life.
Friends may stand with you at first but after a while they begin to wonder why you don’t do something about it and they begin to drift away from you. Eventually your family may even follow them out of your life.
I do not recommend the second option.
The third option is the only one of benefit to you. It also has the advantage of benefiting the person who is supposedly leading you and it even benefits your organization.
It’s a two-step process.
The first step is dealing with the frustration. You can’t will it away. You must meet it head on and take concrete action to minimize it. I say minimize because you can’t ever completely eliminate it (at least I never met anyone who could) but you can make it manageable.
Dealing with the frustration requires that you understand it’s not your job to “fix” your leader. It’s also not your job to point out all of their weaknesses. Your job is to add value to everyone you come into contract with, that includes your leader.
To do that you need to build a good working relationship with your leader. Look for things you have in common and try to identify their strengths. DO NOT say they have no strengths, some will be easier to find than others but everyone has strengths. Clearly somebody saw something in that person because they were placed in a leadership position. Try hard to see those same strengths yourself.
Next, figure out ways to help your leader use their strengths more effectively. Do that while filling in whatever gaps they may have with your own strengths. Yes, you may need to sacrifice your own ego to do this but that’s better than beating your head against the wall in frustration all day long.
You need to take some pride in what you’re doing. It might seem on the surface that helping your leader succeed and look good is backwards. But if you’re a leader yourself you’ll have no problem doing just that. You are helping another person grow and that is the essence of leadership.
In my next post we’ll look at the second half of the process. It’s the part where you “lead-up” and use your influence to help your leader grow even more. The cool part of that is when you help grow the people above you in an organization you’re helping yourself grow at the same time.