August 13, 2014

Have you Caught a Terrible Case of Bad Leadership?

Sick Woman on couchWhat is it about fantastic leadership that’s so hard to come by? Is it because managing people is such a difficult thing to do? Or is it because there’s not enough of leadership DNA to go around? The truth is there are three types of existing leaders out there: natural born leaders, leaders chosen by management and self-appointed leaders. Which do you think has the best chance of becoming a successful dictator? Honestly, it could be either one of them but either way, a successful dictator is someone we know who openly possesses certain traits and characteristics that unfortunately his or her people have to deal with, on a daily-basis. The funny thing is when employees finally decide to jump overboard, they voluntarily get up and do it themselves. Why? Because they quit their bosses, not their job, which is something 75 percent of people do, according to compiled research.

Jim Clifton, Gallup chairman and CEO, provides an interesting take about the management that’s killing America’s growth. Of the estimated 100 million full-time employees, 70 percent of them are disengaged at work, which means there are 70 million Americans unhappy at work all day. Jim questions employee engagement by simply asking:

Why is employee engagement stuck? If you estimate that America has one supervisor or manager for every 10 employees—that is, 10 million managers—then 7 million of those managers are not properly developing, or worse are outright depressing, 70 million U.S. employees.

Could there really be that many terrible leaders out there? But what makes these leaders poor talent managers? The reasons vary from case to case, but one thing is certain. Within this group of poor leadership exists what some of us refer to as dictators. These leaders believe in no democracy except their dictatorship. They display certain behaviors that drive disengagement. It’s their way, or the highway, and those who dare to question do not fit in very well into this cultural dictatorship. It’s worth noting that dictators display obvious behaviors around and toward their employees. Take a look at three obvious things they do:


A successful dictator is not someone who is not a people manager. Actually, they are fantastic at managing people because they over do it, all the time.  This is generally because they are so interested in micro-managing people into the ground, which hardly ever leaves much room to build professional rapport with their people. Listening to input is not something they do, because their mind is made up that their basket of goodies is the best and it’s on to managing their ideas forward. Ironically, I wouldn’t refer to them as deaf, because they hear themselves loud and clear. If employees don’t quit their boss voluntarily, then one of the reasons they leave is for better leadership elsewhere, according to research from LinkedIn. As Management Consultant and Executive Coach, Kathi Elster, tells us, “…when managers don’t give proper direction or worse—micromanage—trust is damaged and employees become resentful.” I wonder how many of the disengaged U.S. workforce can relate to that statement.


If you’ve ever read the children’s book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” then you’d be able to make this connection: Dictators are like the mouse that’s constantly asking for a glass of milk. Dictatorship demands and expects the most out of their employees. They will never stop asking for more, because they are selfish. They forget their employees are professionals, not children, and not people you overload with work. Kind of makes you wonder why 87 percent of employees don’t trust the people they work for, according to what U.K. online staffing firm found. What reasons do disengaged employees that can afford to voluntarily jump overboard to quit their bosses have for sticking around? How can you work for someone you don’t trust? Let alone, take the constant bombardment of orders from?

Put Ambition First

I think it’s fair to say that some people prefer to be the spotlight versus others. Some people are more ambitious than others. To achieve their goals, they’ll put themselves way ahead of others, and even sacrifice others in the process of doing so. To get ahead in this world you need ambition, you need motivation, and the drive to push yourself. Dictatorship is built around this, but only to highlight its selfish motives on a non-stop basis. About 49 percent of dictators don’t bother to ask their employees for ideas when solving problems. Simply because dictators already know the kind of moves they want to make, and this usually doesn’t involve including people in on their actions. Dictators lead by their own examples, even if it means being wrong and lacking creativity.

Leadership, Not Dictatorship

As someone who has experienced what a dictatorship regime can do to engagement, it’s a terrible thing to know that dictatorship exists. In an ideal world, dictators lead no one, and equality sets the tone for everything we do. Since that’s not the case, organizations can work on holding their leaders and themselves accountable, and employees can help lead this charge as well. Leadership is not an easy skill to showcase. Leaders can’t always be right or keep the masses happy, but they can certainly have their employees respect. I’ve only ever known one leader who was capable of this (my father), but it is possible. Instead of leaders focusing on instilling their own self-driven ideologies, there’s something more powerful they can be doing like building a united team of people all fighting for the same goals. People want to believe their work has meaning and that they are a part of something greater. Don’t hamper talent with mindless 24/7 self-promotional hours. Instead, be a real leader!

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Fernando Ramirez is a social media and content strategist for TalentCulture. He's built social media strategies for Fortune 500 companies and talent communities in the HR and Recruiting Technology space. Fernando is a passionate blogger and fantasy football strategist. He is based in Boston.
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