Why Are There so Many Poor Leaders?

Almost every time I write a blog post or post something on Twitter about how to lead effectively, I get a flood of responses. Most are about how people are impacted by poor leadership. 

It’s seems that people believe there are far more poor leaders in the world today than there are good ones. They believe that because sadly, it’s true. 

While it’s true, it’s not a surprise. It’s not a surprise when you realize that the vast majority of people in leadership positions have less than 10 hours of formal leadership development. Even many people at the very top of organizations have learned how to lead through on the job training. Which isn’t necessary bad, unless of course the people showing them how to lead are poor leaders themselves…and that’s very often the case. 

If you’re in a leadership position and have no formal leadership training then it’s most likely that you are leading the same way that you were led. It’s also most likely that the people who have led you throughout your career had no formal leadership training either. They have passed down to you the same poor leadership habits that were passed down to them. 

But here’s the thing about formal leadership training. It can’t actually teach you how to lead. 

It can make you aware of the characteristics that Authentic Leaders possess. It can help you develop some of those characteristics within yourself. Formal leadership training can help prepare you for making difficult decisions by role playing.  Also through case studies of situations previously dealt with by Authentic Leaders. Formal leadership training helps a ton. It helps you learn from the mistakes of others. It helps you understand the huge difference between attempting to manage a person and leading someone in a way that has a positive impact on their life. 

But eventually, your leadership abilities will come down to who you are as a person. Your leadership effectiveness will be determined by how much you care for the people you lead and how willing you are to show it. You need to be honest with yourself to accomplish that. Likely more honest than you’re able to be without some additional help.

That’s why I say again and again successful leaders NEED a mentor. Or mentors. This person, or these people are your “board of directors.” Your “board” can be a group of close friends who you respect as successful people, regardless of their area of expertise. But they must be people who are comfortable telling you uncomfortable truths. They must also be people who you trust enough to listen to and act upon those truths. 

But here’s the one thing that separates great leaders from lesser leaders. The most accomplished leaders didn’t wait until they were placed in a leadership position to develop their leadership skills. They knew that a position or fancy title was not a prerequisite for leading. They formed their “board” early in their careers and followed through on the advice they received. 

When their time came to lead there was no “on the job training” required. They were prepared to make a positive difference in the lives of others because they had been doing it all along.

Do you have a board? If not, it’s never too late to start one. Consider your board member(s) carefully. They don’t have to be your best friends, in fact it might be better if they aren’t. You don’t need to always see eye to eye with them, in fact it’s definitely better if you don’t. 

If you’re given the opportunity to lead then you have the chance to impact future generations that may never know your name. You can have a positive impact by being the leader who stops the legacy of poor leadership. Even if your past “leaders” have been more like Attila the Hun than Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela you can break the cycle of poor leadership.  You can make the decision that you will lead authentically and not the way you were led. 

Authentic Leadership is hard. You have to really want to do it. It requires real effort but the gratitude of the people you made a difference for is well worth that effort. 

So what do you say? Will you be a difference maker? All it takes to get started is a decision that you will LeadToday!

On a another note… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

No One “Needs” to be Micromanaged

I put a tweet out a couple of weeks ago that said something about the dangers of micromanaging. Almost immediately I received a response that said some people “needed” to be micromanaged. They were incapable of thinking or doing anything on their own. Some people they said wanted to be micromanaged so they didn’t have to think for themselves. They said thinking was too tiring for some people.

No. No. No. That’s wrong on every count.

There are 2 reasons why someone micromanages their people.

Sometimes they have so much passion for their business or organization that they want to be involved in everything. It’s still not good but I can cut those micromanagers a little slack because at least their intentions are good if not their methods.

The second reason is really multiple reasons in one. They don’t trust their people. They have knowingly or unknowingly put people into positions where they can’t succeed. They have convinced themselves that their people can’t think for themselves. They are know-it-alls. They think their people are lazy. They don’t like their people, or perhaps they don’t like people in general.

To sum all that up…they are exceptionally poor leaders.

You do not grow people by micromanaging them. If you are not growing your people you’ll find it very difficult to grow your business.

As someone in a leadership position your number one responsibility is growing and developing your people. You don’t do that by micromanaging them. You can’t even do it by managing them. If fact, most every “people problem” you think you have is likely a direct result of trying to manage them rather than lead them.

Micromanaging someone is like managing them on steroids. You hurt them, you hurt yourself and you hurt your organization.

No one needs to be micromanaged. No one wants to be micromanaged. No one benefits from being micromanaged.

Those are the facts. If you choose to dispute them you may hold a leadership position but I’m sorry to say that it’s almost certain that you are not a leader.

Is Micro-Managing Killing Your Business?

So let‘s get this part out of the way early. If you’re a leader who micro-manages your people then you may be in a leadership position but you’re likely not doing much leading.   

 

Leaders who insist on micro-managing have some problems. The first problem is that they are trying to manage people. That doesn’t work. “Stuff” gets managed, people need to be led. I’ve written frequently about the difference between leading and managing so feel free to look back a few posts to see what I mean. 

 

The second problem micro-mangers have is that they believe they must check on every detail. That’s most likely the result of being an insecure leader. Micro-managers tend to base their leadership on a lack of faith and trust in other people. 

 

That’s a huge morale killer. 

 

It leads to little or no growth. It discourages the development of their people. It focuses on problems of detail, many of which are inconsequential. It discourages teamwork. If they micro-manage often enough or long enough and they will kill their business. It might be a long slow death but it’s death all the same.

 

Micro-managers take positive attributes – an attention to detail and a hands-on attitude – to the extreme. Either because they are control-obsessed, or because they feel driven to push everyone around them to success. But they risk disempowering their people. They ruin their confidence. They degrade their performance, and frustrate them to the point where they may quit…or worse, they stay and just disengage.

 

Micro-managers limit each individual’s ability to develop and grow. They also limit what their entire team can achieve, because everything has to go through them.

 

They don’t trust their people or their judgment. They are unwilling to allow them to assume any responsibility. What micro-managers fail to realize is that they are cheating their organizations out of the talent they are paying for.

 

Micro-managing may work for a while but in time it acts like an anchor on all progress. Innovation, new products, and new markets are discouraged because the talent to create and move forward has been derailed by the micro-manager.

 

The inability of micro-managers to “let go” and allow other people make some decisions, even risk failure, ensures that the growth of the organization will be severely limited. It may take years for those limitations to show up but they will eventually show up. When enough people disengage the business dies, slowly perhaps, but it does eventually die.

 

Micro-managing is not about the weakness of the team, it’s about the weakness of the leader.


If you’re a leader that suffers this weakness then you must exercise your leadership skills through effective delegation. Delegation is the single greatest tool for building future leaders. It’s also a great tool to help micro-managers break free from the limitations that come from attempting to do it all themselves.

The Case for Micro-Leading

It seems as if I’m always learning something more about leadership. If there is one thing about leadership that I learn almost everyday it’s that I have a lot to learn when it comes to leading.

 

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you’ll know my thoughts on micro-managing. It does great harm, to the person being micro-managed, to their organization, and even at times to the micro-manager

 

People resist being managed and they super resist being micro-managed. Micro-managing causes the micro-managed person to feel that they are not trusted even though that’s often not the case. Many times a micro-manager trusts their people and believes they are actually helping them. It’s not meant to be hurtful, it is in fact meant to be helpful. 

 

Regardless of their motives micro-managers are not helpful in the long-run. 

 

I am a firm believer in delegating tasks and empowering your people to take the reins. Let them work through the details and learn more than they ever would by being micro-managed. In the long-run it could be better for the organization. 

 

But….

 

You can delegate a task but as a leader you cannot delegate the responsibility for it being successfully accomplished

 

Which brings us to what I’ve learned lately. Given the choice between a well meaning leader who micro-manages their people, or a well meaning leader who empowers their people with little or no supervision, I’m going with the micro-manager every time

 

Despite my recent discovery I still refuse to acknowledge that micro-managing may have a place in the development of people. So I’m going to coin a new term and call it micro-leading. Here is the difference between micro-managing and micro-leading. 

 

If you’re closely managing someone only for your benefit or for the benefit of the organization then it’s micro-managing. If you’re closely supervising someone for their own development and learning then it’s micro-leading

 

Why you do something matters. Motives matter. 

 

Now, for those of you who think that the leader who sets their people free to find their own way has terrific motives I would say that you are likely correct. Except that successful leadership requires more, much more, than pure motives. 

 

Authentic Leaders cannot risk the good of the many for the development of one or even several people. Their first responsibility is to the entire organization. That requires them to find the balance between too much supervision and too little. Because of that awesome responsibility to the many I would have to suggest erring on the side of too much. 

 

It’s great when a leader can trust the judgment of their people but leaders must also understand that good judgment often comes from experience. If your people lack that experience then it’s not micro-managing to question their judgment, it’s micro-leading

 

Authentic Leaders “loan” their experience to their people until they have enough experience of their own. It’s only then that an experienced leader will allow them more freedom to use their own informed judgment to make great decisions

 

The good of the many must be foremost in the mind of a leader. It may cause the development of future leaders to be slower than they would like but if you’re in it for the long haul it’s the only way to go

The Problem With Micromanaging

Have you ever heard the term microleading? I doubt it but if you have you should recognize it as an oxymoron. Like “I worked all-day one night.” 

 

Micromanaging is exactly what it says it is, microMANAGING. It’s when someone in a leadership position not only tries to manage a person but they manage even the smallest details of that person’s job. 

 

But micromanaging isn’t really the problem, it’s merely a symptom of a much bigger issue. The bigger issue is that there is someone in a leadership position trying to manage another human being. 

 

You see, managing is about stuff. You can manage budgets, you can manage inventory, you can manage buildings and plans but you cannot manage people. Basic human instinct drives us to resist being managed and and also makes us virtually crave being led.

 

Leadership is about people, people and only people. 

 

If you’ve found your way into a leadership position, no matter how you got there, your number one responsibility is to and for the people you lead. 

 

The real problem with micromanaging is not the “micro” part, it’s the managing part. In a weird twist, the “micro” part actually magnifies the fact that the person is being managed and not led. 

 

Managing a person is like asking them to swim laps while wearing handcuffs. They may some how pull it off but you’ll be greatly limiting their effectiveness. Notice I said “you’ll” as in you, the leader, will be limiting their effectiveness. 

 

Most every issue a person in a leadership position has with their people likely stems from the fact that they are trying to manage them. A managed person’s morale, creativeness, willingness to take risks, and motivation to push themselves are all pressured by being managed; when they are micromanaged those same things are crushed. 

 

I might be naive but I don’t think most micromanagers mean to do that type of harm. But there isn’t much difference between intentional harm and unintentional harm. If you’re micromanaging your people your harming them by limiting their growth. 

 

Authentic Servant Leaders know that they don’t really grow their business, they grow their people and their people then grow the business. When you limit the growth of your people you’re also limiting the growth of your entire organization. 

 

Trust your people! Unleash their potential by leading them, not managing them. Motivate them, coach them, teach them, and care for them. 


Authentic Servant Leaders understand that their people aren’t assets, they are not capital, and that they are not machines. They know that their people are human beings, real live human beings who have goals and dreams, they know that they are people who need to be led, not managed. 

When Your Boss is a Micro-Manager

There are many challenges associated with working for a micro-manager. When you work for a micro-manager it makes it much more difficult for you to learn the skills needed to succeed. It makes it far more of a struggle to develop your instincts and judgment, two traits that will be required for you to make sound decisions as a future leader. Working for a micro-manager can make you hesitant and kill your self-confidence.

There are two main reasons people micro-manage. One is that they don’t trust their people. Their lack of trust stems from a lack of self-confidence, they don’t trust that they have put the right people in the right places. If they can’t trust themselves they most certainly can’t trust anyone else.

The other reason people micro-manage is a true, pure love for the business or organization. They want and need to be involved, they enjoy being involved. They are passionate about all aspects of the operation and they just want… no they need, everything to be right. If anything, perhaps they “over-care.” They mean no harm and they just don’t understand that they are in a way stealing your “ego food.”

Either way there are truly a ton of issues when it comes to working for a micro-manager. It just isn’t the best situation to be in.

But so what?

None of those issues, not a one of them, should be used as an excuse to not try. Doing nothing and then blaming a micro-manager for YOUR lack of productivity is on you, not the micro-manager. There is not a micro-manager in the world who can prevent you from taking action. They cannot prevent you from making decisions. They can’t stop you from thinking and being creative. They can’t steal your self-confidence …. unless you allow it. 

They can overrule anything and everything you do but you can keep trying. You can stay positive, you can press on. The best, most productive method for working with a micro-manager is to lead up. Lead up by making good decisions, being proactive, leading yourself well and making a choice to maintain control over your attitude and confidence level. 

Making good decisions, being proactive, and displaying a bit of confidence will all contribute to earning the trust of even the most micro of micro-managers. Unless your boss is a complete wacko you’ll earn not only the trust of your boss but a little more room to grow as well.

If your boss is the second type of micro-manager then share in their passion, engage and connect. Show your own passion for the organization, help them build the business and fill the leadership gaps created by the growth. Don’t expect a micro-manager to give you room to grow but don’t be surprised when they let you make your own room.

There are plenty of opportunities to thrive under a micro-manager so long as you don’t use being micro-managed as an excuse to sit on your hands and pout. Micro-managers don’t manage your attitude, you are always responsible for that.

If you’re blaming a micro-manager for your lack of growth then you had best take a look in the mirror because it’s likely your bigger problem is the one staring back at you. You may not like hearing that but you need to come to grips with it if you hope to succeed in the future.

By the way, if you do have the misfortune of working for a person who simply will never give you the opportunity to grow then you must stop complaining and lead yourself to better employment. That too is a choice only you can make!

 

Today’s Biggest Leadership Challenge – Part Two

Now that you have your mentoring program underway let’s look at the other significant leadership challenge of today. 😀 I joke about already having your mentoring program started but I don’t joke about this: do not delay in getting started with developing tomorrow’s leaders; this workforce issue is going to overwhelm organizations that aren’t prepared to deal with it. Don’t be one of the many who are surprised that this issue overtook them so fast.

The second major challenge facing today’s leaders is micro-managing. Those of you who believe you are micro-managed should not get too excited here. This is not just going to be a recommendation for today’s leaders to stop micro-managing their people. This is about tomorrow’s leaders not allowing themselves to be micro-managed. 

I’ve worked for micro-managers at different points in my career but I’ve never really felt micro-managed. I always listened to my micro-manager (they deserve that respect) and then I always tried to do the right thing. When the right thing worked and it was different from what I was told to do I either heard nothing or I heard I was lucky or if I was working for a leader (yes, even good leaders can fall into the trap of micro-managing) I might have heard “good job.”  When what I thought was the right thing to do didn’t work I heard how I had screwed up. I got yelled at, I felt bad. I might have even embarrassed myself, but I survived. And I learned, I grew, and I discovered why my boss might have felt the need to micro-manage me. 

Here’s my point, the real problem with micro-managing is not only with today’s leaders who micro-manage, it is with tomorrow’s leaders who use it as an excuse to NOT make decisions and an excuse to not begin leading today. They say they “are not allowed” to make decisions and once they convince themselves of that it is certain that they won’t be making meaningful  decisions anytime soon.

The reality is that even in the most micro-managed organizations 85% of all decisions are made below the top levels of an organization. If you’re a true future leader you have ample opportunity to practice your decision making skills no matter where you work. You only have to risk getting yelled at. Okay, so maybe you have to risk losing your job but if you can’t truly thrive in the role you’re in then maybe you don’t want that job anyway. 

If you have the courage required to lead then you also have the courage to make decisions, whether you work for a micro-manager or not. You may not have the authority to move on major decisions but you can still learn effective decision making by making every lower level decision possible.

If you work for a leader who micro-manages they might be limiting their own leadership potential but they can only limit yours if you let them. Don’t let them!

A couple of final thoughts for the leader of today who is sincerely interested in developing the leaders of tomorrow.

If you’re a micro-manager then stop. If you can’t completely stop (and if it was my behind on the line I might find it hard to stop too) then stop a little. If you’ve never had a serious disagreement in your team meetings then you should recognize that as a warning sign that your future leaders are just sitting back and silently letting you decide everything. You cannot develop future leaders that way. 

Encourage debate, encourage the airing of different viewpoints, be quiet, force the opinions out of your people. If you have the right people in the room they most certainly have opinions and many of those opinions will be different than yours; it’s the job of the leader to make them feel safe enough to share them.

This much is certain, you will not find your organization’s next generation of leaders by watching them listen to you.