Most people do not enjoy paperwork, and they like confrontation even less. Effective leaders are no different, but they take a deep breath and do it regardless. Lousy leaders do not. Here are five reasons some of these lousy leaders don’t put poor performers on corrective action.
An arrogant leader holds the belief that if one of their managers needs help with a problem they should be smart enough to fix it themselves. The arrogant leader seems to think that if they merely utter a command, and wave their hand, underlings will “just handle it.” This seldom works well. If people knew how to fix their performance shortcomings, they would. When they do not have the confidence, ability or knowledge, they cannot make the required changes. Makes sense, right? If you are leading someone, a big part of improving their performance rests with you.
When a poor performer excels in one area of their job that directly benefits their immediate manager, they often get a lot of cover. Think of the rainmaking sales person who always manages to close the big deals. Sure, they make support staff cry with their rudeness or are late and disruptive to important meetings, but because they bring economic value, they often get a pass on their crappy behavior. Poor managers will easily justify the conduct by saying it is not so bad in the grand scheme of things, or by imagining how it could be much worse. Fear based thinking is cowardly and selfish. The lousy leader does not want to risk harming the goose that lays the golden eggs. By contrast, effective leaders do not tolerate any poor behavior which runs counter to the organization’s values, norms, and culture. They will not hesitate to sacrifice short-term gains for the longer-term success of the team.
Lousy leaders regularly get caught by surprise. “No one could have ever suspected this would happen?” is a familiar refrain. It is a big hint that their inner circle of influence contains sycophants or weak leaders with poor persuasion skills. Between the worrywarts who think of everything that could go wrong, to the strategic-minded who continuously look for obstacles, someone always suspects the worse case scenario. The leader may have lacked nuance and the ability to see the challenge with their own eyes, or they may have ignored the warnings that others provided. Because they have not been paying attention, they cannot see the problem so they will not admit to the problem. Effective leaders are proactive and attempt to correct behaviors or systems failures before they become problems.
A lousy leader will allow the poor behavior to continue because they do not want to be bothered with the work required to lead properly. They subscribe to the belief that “things have a way of working themselves out.” These types of leaders and managers do not address, or document infractions and they probably do an equally poor job with recognition and reward. It is negligence to the basic tenets of effective leadership and relationship management.
Leaders are human beings, and it is unrealistic to expect perfection. There will always be some element of procrastination or avoidance of unpleasant tasks. However, when it becomes pervasive and habitual, it converts to an abdication of the role. Lousy leaders are often hesitant or refuse to admit, that as the leader, they too are in part responsible for the performance of their team members. They regularly shift blame to others because they do not want to put in the necessary work to improve the situation. An effective leader understands responsibility. They begin with the premise that a problem is fundamentally their fault and then they quickly explore ways to find a remedy.
There are many executives with strong character and integrity who take their role seriously and work with their leaders, formally and informally, to improve performance. They are the unacknowledged heroes who work to defeat lousy, predatory, and sometimes unlawful leadership in their midst in real time. An act that comes with risk and often without public reward. Endeavor to be that kind of leader.
Also published on Medium.