27 September 2023

The leading obvious: How not to become the boss you came to hate

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John Eades cautions against bad leadership habits, especially if the only example you have to follow is that of your last toxic boss.

As he looked into the mirror, he hated what he saw.

It wasn’t the grey hair coming from his beard or the receding hairline beginning to show, it was who he had become.

The words he used with his team replayed in his mind.

He wondered: “How can I be saying the words I vowed never to use? How can I be repeating his patterns?”

His resentment towards his old boss grew stronger.

He splashed some water on his face hoping the memory would go away.

He looked back into the mirror and the memory raced back.

He heard his own voice shouting: “It’s all your fault. You’re just not good enough for this job.”

He cringed again just thinking he actually said those words to his team.

He was supposed to be better. He should have learned from all the mistakes of that terrible boss.

He had failed.

We’ve all experienced some bad behaviour from bosses in the past and vowed never to act in the same manner.

To ensure you stick to your word, do these four things.

Create a greatness statement

If you ask a room of 100 people “who wants to be great?” All 100 will raise their hands.

However, few are willing to sacrifice to achieve greatness.

On a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Don Yaeger told me: “Everyone has the capacity to be great, just so few choose to do the work physically and mentally to get there.

“Before the work, it starts with defining what greatness means to you in three big areas of your life: Family, work, and personally.”

We become what we think and who we surround ourselves with.

Be proactive in defining what being a great boss at work, at home, and socially means to you.

Write it down and be specific, detailed and thoughtful.

Once you have written it down, share it with someone else so they can hold you accountable.

Stay purpose driven

The easiest way to become the boss you hated is to not be purpose driven (or to lose sight of your purpose).

The pressures of the world don’t slow down, they only speed up.

That means the punches get harder and harder.

If you lose sight of your purpose and begin chasing money, these punches just might knock you down and out.

Remember why you do what you do.

If you don’t know, look into the eyes of your people and go to work to help them develop.

That’s always a purpose worth pursuing.

Be radical about your example

Actions speak louder than words. You’ve heard it a million times.

When you have a title of chief executive or manager your actions are put under a microscope.

While many leaders focus on the words they use in emails or speeches, it’s how they model leadership that carries the most weight.

The best question you can ask yourself is: “If I was being recorded from start to finish today, would my team be proud of my decisions?”

Make time for things outside of work

I love my work. Most high performers do as well.

While I find the concept of work-life balance is old-school, making time for the important things in life is critical, not just for your own well-being, but to also set a radical example for your team.

If your people only see you valuing work and not your family, faith, or health, they will either mimic you or lose respect for you. Both are bad.

We make time for the things that are important to us.

Make time for your marriage, kids, health, and hobbies.

Not only is it good for your team to see but it’s good for you.

The next time you look in the mirror just think about the bad bosses you have had in your life and make sure you aren’t becoming them.

*John Eades is the Chief Executive of LearnLoft and author of F.M.L. Standing Out and Being a Leader. He is also the host of the Follow My Lead Podcast and can be followed on instagram @johngeades.

This article first appeared on John’s LearnLoft blog.

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