I truly believe that most of us are hardworking, goal chasers that are trying to just do the best of our short time on this earth. We aren’t trying to put anyone else down or be better than anyone else, but are trying to be the best parent, child, sibling, coworker, supervisor, worker, etc. that we can be. However, occasionally we find ourselves getting tripped up by people outside of our control. We find ourselves in situations that we never had planned in any of our goals.
This is my story of being tripped and getting back up a better, wiser person who actually is thankful for the lessons I learned in my fall.
Straight out of High School right into the hands of the United States Air Force quickly required me to grow up and understand how to follow. I had some good supervisors and some great supervisors. Along the way I grew accustomed to supervisors and leaders who had tons of training and standards that I was required to meet. They were invested in the people they supervised as the subordinate’s performance was a direct reflection on them as well. Seven years later, fresh out of the military I entered an organization that I assumed would have high stakes in making sure the leadership and management was working. However, what I discovered was a painful lesson that almost wrecked my life.
Here’s the truth-Not every leader or every management team is guaranteed to be someone you will want to work for. There are people running organizations that have no business in the position. The question is how do we identify these organizations and how do we overcome the devastation of working in one of these places?
How to identify an organization ran by a horrible leader:
- Pay attention to the outside opinions of the organization. There will never be a 100% positive outlook on any organization. You will always have people that will try and pick a place apart. Particularly, people will be jealous of successful businesses and these comments need to be taken with caution. Such comments generally are subjective comments, such as “they don’t treat their customers good”, or “they did not give me the care I needed”. However, we have to pay attention to WHAT people are saying. If they are saying specific things about the leader of the organization, you may want to pay attention. Comments that I heard before being hired was; “the leader of that organization doesn’t care about people” and “I was never accepted by those people because I’m not “cool” enough”. These were legitimate complaints that eventually were found to be sources of greater issues within the organization. In hindsight, I wish I would have identified these concerns as a potentially tough place to work. Even if a rumor is not totally right, there is probably a hint of truth behind it.
For example, I have heard that an individual is telling people that “Janell is a drill sergeant”. Let me reassure you that as a past drill sergeant, I run my boxing club nothing like I was in basic training, but there is some truth to it. My business is one that empowers women, and that requires discipline and respect. I don’t put up with cattiness. I expect to see the same respect that I give to my clients. I am teaching a skill that transcends boxing to benefit every facet of life. I take this seriously as I envision these qualities changing lives, promoting happiness and affecting families. So, if I come off serious, it’s because I am. I am fully passionate about my mission and vision.
2. Listen to your gut when you first meet the Management. On my first occasion with the leader of this organization, he asked a bizarre, very inappropriate question. At the time, I wrote it off convincing myself that maybe he was just a little “quirky”. Realize that the flaws in the leader that you meet initially will likely be magnified by ten when you are officially working for that person. If you see warning signs, you may want to really debate the outcome of working for such a leader.
3. Identify a leader with a lack of emotional intelligence and take caution! You cannot expect great leadership potential from a person with low emotional intelligence. They will not only fail you but everyone else in the organization including their customers. There are not many organizations that can survive this type of leader. Take even more caution though, if you are in an organization that relies on personal skills and communication to be a success. The combination of low emotional intelligence and the need for interaction is a disaster. If you work with this leader 1-on-1, be ready to be insulted, put down and unappreciated.
4. Identify a leader who has no passion. A leader who is burned out or has no passion for the work they are in will always be a hard one to work for. They are merely going to be aiming for the minimal amount of work to simply get by. You will be limited in your success under such a person. If you are willing to be a minimal effort type of person, this arrangement may work for you. However, if you are a person that shoots for the stars, beware that working under a bad leader will be a goal and vision killer. A leader of this type will not encourage you to go above and beyond, and will tend to despise your success even when it ultimately brings them success.
Once employed within an organization you are normally committing and dedicating yourself to that leader whether you see it that way or not. You have chosen that this is the organization that you can envision meeting your personal goals and objectives. If you do not look at the opportunity in that way, you could be setting yourself up for failure by missing potential problems that could arise in the future.
Let’s say you overlook the terrible management and decide to take the job for other reasons. Before we criticize this move, I have to admit that this is what I did. I committed myself to the organization because I believed whole heartedly in the purpose this organization was created to serve. What I did not realize at the time was that I was committing myself not only to the organization, but also to the leader of the organization. The management of this organization was so horrible that the naïve me could never have imagined how bad, “bad management”, could actually be.
All of those issues that I was able to overlook in the beginning soon became huge problems over time. Not only did they compound, but they eventually became my problem to deal with. His crude behavior was hurtful to not only my coworkers but to the people that we served. I was the one to receive the complaints. All of his behavior went against my better judgment, but he was my boss. What was I supposed to do? Over a year’s time, my confidence and excitement for this organization began to get beat down. I was not only trying to serve the people of the organization, but also spent time smoothing over the issues in the wake of my poor skilled boss and then defending every action I took (even the successful ones) to him.
I came to a decision or whether I was going to allow this boss to beat every ounce of character out of me. Was I willing to become a duplicate of what he was…egotistical, mean-spirited, defensive, overbearing and explosive?
This impossible decision would have been avoided if I had identified and avoided this type of organization from the start. However, now I had to decide between two drastic pathways. On the one side, I love the job. I was deeply devoted to the cause and the people. On the other hand, I would continue to be beat down by the leadership above me. In the end, I was confident that there was no job, no organization that was worth sacrificing my character over. I wanted to make a difference, to change lives, and that would never be a possibility under a boss such as this.
I am reminded that we learn not only from our mentors, but from those terrible experiences as well. An experience such as I have gone through has perhaps taught me more about being a leader than any school, class, or outstanding mentor could have. All of the heartache this leader caused me has shown me what is important. As I move on in the future, I will be considering the overall picture of how I truly fit in with an organization so that I may be successful…the vision, the goals, the objectives…and ultimately…the boss! I hope you will too.
Perhaps the bigger challenge is more for those who are in leadership roles. Look behind you and see if people are following. That is the true sign of a leader. Remember your people are counting on you to lead the organization, to be passionate and to have emotional intelligence. Leadership can be a slippery slope into burn out, bitterness and complacency. Don’t slide. You impact your people more than you think.