It can come as a nasty surprise when you land that next promoted role and discover that your own boss isn’t all you’d hoped. It makes your own new leadership role more of a challenge if you haven’t got the support you need.
It’s a situation I’ve come across with clients before – happily not too often, but it can make an already stressful time doubly so. Maybe yours is unsupportive, or actively works to undermine you. Maybe they aren’t assertive and don’t actually lead , leaving you to deal with historical issues that cause all kinds of deep seated problems. The variations here are many.
Bad bosses come in all shapes and forms, and if you’re in a position where yours is less than ideal, you’ll have your own cross to bear.
All is not lost however, and there are ways to re-frame this in a more positive light. These kinds of bosses can be hugely instrumental when it comes to your own development. It wasn’t until I worked for a bad boss that the value of great leadership was bought home to me.
Here are 7 ways to learn from someone who leads when they possibly shouldn’t! You can use these ideas to help you manage the situation while you consider your longer term plans. As always, if bullying or other discriminatory practices are involved and you feel unable to cope, then seek out suitably qualified support.
7 Things To Learn from A Bad Boss
1. How to develop your own leadership style. Sometimes this can be a quicker and more powerful way of working out what kind of leader you want to be – and often it’s not until you’re in role and you begin the real work work of leading a team that you begin to understand this. A bad boss can help you to anchor those feelings of wanting to do things a different way, because you’ll have seen what happens when you don’t get it right.
2. How to manage up. Learning to understand your boss’s priorities, how to communicate with them and get buy in for your own ideas as you help them to meet their targets, is an art-form – and one you’ll need to hone. The special relationship that you can develop by learning how to smooth the way with your own boss, and develop trust to get things done, will benefit everyone on your team. Having a bad or difficult boss is a fast-track to learning these essential skills.
3. How to manage your emotional state. Emotional Intelligence is considered a keystone of an effective leader. Daniel Goleman popularized the term in his 1995 book ‘Emotional Intelligence – Why It Can Matter More Than IQ’; self-regulation is one of the pillars of his model. Learning to control your emotions under provocation will help you to behave consistently and others will see you as a safe pair of hands. You’ll be trusted. I’ve written about this before, in A Grumpy Leader Doesn’t Make A Great Team Even if your bad boss lacks emotional intelligence, you needn’t.
4. How to lead from where you are. A bad boss often offers you the chance to step up and lead in areas where you may not have previously had the opportunity. You may find that other team members, desperate to be led, will be only too willing to follow someone confident and self-assured, who has the team’s best interests at heart. This is your chance to build strong ties with your team and demonstrate your full potential.
5. How to communicate well. The chances are that you may have to re-frame everything your boss says – or else take the lead on communicating full stop. A bad boss gives you the opportunity to learn how to deal with ‘difficult’ people, (them), keeping your cool and building resilience, as well as learning the importance of transparency and tact.
6. How to demonstrate empathy. A bad boss won’t only affect you. Here’s your chance to build and demonstrate empathy with your team as you lead them towards working effectively in difficult circumstances.
7. How to move out of your comfort zone. Being thrown in at the deep end can feel frightening but can also bring out the very best in you. It can be an opportunity to show your team, and those watching, just what you’re capable of. It gives you a chance to lead in areas you may otherwise have waited months or years to, and gain valuable experience.
The question then is…what are you going to do with it?
If you’re considering your next move, take a look at the Visible Leadership Programme and get in touch. I can help you to make sure you’re showing up as someone who is promotion-ready in order to maximise your chances of getting out of your own way and taking your career to the next level.
I’m Susan Ritchie, an author, leadership and executive coach and trainer. My second book, Strategies for Being Visible: 14 Profile-Raising Ideas for Emerging Female Leaders is now available as a paperback, an audiobook and for the Kindle reader.