Why Are You Here? February 27, 2009Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
Tags: Coaching, Leadership, Mentor
One of favorite quotes is from Ashleigh Brilliant:
It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.
This quote has been immortalized in one of the delightful Demotivator posters, many of which I find endlessly amusing. Amusing or not, these posters provide many good lessons in leadership in a very backhanded way.
In a recent email exchange, I was reminded that although I have learned a lot from several good leaders for whom I worked, I usually learned the most from the very bad leaders under whom I suffered. Some people can share heartwarming stories of good leaders whose words and actions served to inspire them. Everyone can recount endless stories of incredible abuse from thoughtless fools who were somehow given a leadership role in spite of their clear sociopathic tendencies.
I worked for one person who honestly epitomized every bad leadership quality you could imagine. He punished in public and praised in private. He never communicated. His ego knew no bounds. He sold out his people for his own gain. He took credit when things went well and threw us under the bus when they went badly. He would change projects, schedules, plans, and goals at the drop of a hat. Even when confronted with direct feedback in a group review, he simply ignored it and thanked everyone for their honesty. He was, in short, an idiot of spectacular dimension.
With each error, each annoyance, each dig and snub, I added to my mental list of “things I will never do when I am in charge.” I came away with more ideas on how to be a good leader than I ever thought possible.
It’s a sad fact of human nature that we often remember punishment more than praise. Eat bad food once and you’ll never touch it again, but the memories of a good meal do fade with time.
Don’t misunderstand: I am not suggesting that you “speed mentor” your team with a bout of bad leadership. Continue to be a good leader, but with the knowledge that those lessons will take a longer time to sink in. Most importantly, avoid even a single example of bad leadership, because that negative experience will never be forgotten.
To open up the conversation a bit, what good bit of leadership do you remember? More interestingly, what’s the worst leadership example you retain on your list of “things you’ll never do as a leader?”