It’s a fact that sometimes people are promoted into leadership positions when they have, shall we say, some shortcomings. At least some perceived shortcomings.
How you react under those circumstances says a lot more about you than it says about the person in the leadership position. It is common for a person being “led” by someone they feel is unqualified to hold a leadership position to “resist” that person.
Resisting the person means at best they become a disengaged employee. At worst they become actively disengaged.
A disengaged employee is someone who does the bare minimum required to keep their job. They make the determination that doing more than the bare minimum isn’t going to be rewarded. So they put forth a “why bother” level of effort.
An actively disengaged employee is actually putting forth more effort. The problem is that much of that effort is focusing on being a disruption to the the organization. And a disruption to their “leader” in particular.
I have been very fortunate to nearly always work for leaders who actually led. Yes, some were more effective than others but I learned good stuff from all of them. They each, in their own way, made me better.
But my first “leader” right out of college might have taught me the most. Unfortunately, I learned it years after he was no longer leading me. It didn’t take very long in my first job out of college to realize that my “leader” wasn’t the smartest guy in the room. In fact, to my absolute surprise I figured out quickly that he was illiterate. He could not read or write.
Yet he was the boss of a team of people with Electrical Engineering degrees. I was 22 years old and I had no idea what to make of this situation. Most people I told found it hard to believe that someone at his level could be illiterate. But he was.
I found it more than challenging to take any kind of direction from this guy. I assumed that his inability to read and write made him an idiot. Then I decided, for reasons I still don’t completely understand, to make his life a living hell. I must say I was pretty good at it.
So good in fact that it didn’t take long to find myself sitting in a conference room with an HR Rep, my boss and his boss. They told us to “work it out” and get back to work. But the way I worked it out was to leave the company and head for greener pastures.
Over the years I thought about that boss and what I had learned from that experience. The big thing I learned was that I was a terrible team member. I might have been the best engineer on the team but I was the worst team member. I disrupted everyone with my shenanigans which were all focused on proving how much smarter I was than the boss.
One of the other big things I learned from that experience was that just because I failed to see the strengths of my boss it didn’t mean others couldn’t see them. He had worked his way up through the company and earned the respect of the owners. They were very loyal to him. He understood their goals and worked tirelessly to help them achieve each one. He was a good “people person,” even if I didn’t realize that until it was much too late.
It would be years before I understood one of my roles in an organization was to make the people around me better. That included the people above me in the organization. It was never going to be my place to expose any weaknesses of the people above me. My role was to identify any gaps they may have and fill those gaps with my own experience and skills. And that was regardless of whether or not I received any credit for it. It was also my role whether or not they knew I was doing it.
It would be several more years before I would realize that in the most successful organizations everyone has that same role. That role is to find and fill the gaps of the people around and above you. That role is also in addition to everything else in your job description, not instead of. The role is not to expose gaps for the sole purpose of complaining about them.
If you’re currently working for a leader who frustrates you the first thing you need to realize is that being frustrated is a choice. You can choose to be frustrated or you can choose to be fascinated. I’d recommend you be fascinated and curious about how a seemingly unqualified person achieved a leadership position in the first place. By working to understand that person you may discover the strengths that earned them that position.
It’s when you identify a person’s strengths that it becomes much more rewarding to fill their gaps. Filling the gaps of the people around you also makes you a much more valuable employee…and a great team member.
Do not allow anyone with shortcomings in your organization to frustrate you. You can’t control their actions or their weaknesses. So control what you can and that’s your attitude and the level of effort you’ll put forth to be the very best version of yourself.
And one last thing…before you even think about criticizing someone else for their shortcomings you’d better be darn sure you don’t have any of your own.