When Bad Management Makes You a Better Leader

Updated on November 10, 2017
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April Savage is a Business Advocate, Personal Banker & Author; an advocate of Literacy, Entrepreneurship & Financial Planning

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Bad Managers Can Show You How to be a Better Leader

"A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but where they ought to be." Rosalyn Carter

A good leader sees potential in his employee. He stops calling him an employee, and refers to him as a team mate. A friend. A confidant. A trusted ally.

A while back, I was put in a situation where I felt I needed to speak up at work. I was sure my manager would understand, and listen to my legitimate fears and frustrations. Instead of him listening to me, he was condescending. He threatened my job. He made me feel like I needed to just take my badge off and leave. I felt like a tiny mouse in a chair and could not hide myself as he taunted me with his arrogance.

But what got me more than anything was when he threatened: "I can make or break your career."

I sat there, anger rising within me. I never forgot that. I realized I could overcome his ignorance of my concerns, with focusing more on excellence and getting promoted eventually. As time went on, and I talked to my other team there, I realized he had and was still doing it to everyone.

I realized it was a manager problem.

That was a bad manager who refused to listen, who pointed the finger at everyone else but himself. The most discouraging truth to that problem is the fact that particular manager had been with the company already for years!

After his remark, I realized he would never care or listen to any of his employees frustrations or concerns, even though at times he said he did. His style had created complacency in the workplace with employees who not only stopped caring about their jobs, but were desperately looking for a way out.

I started seeing patterns in management that made me realize this is a common problem in Corporate America employment. I became repulsed with the company, the so-called leadership and started questioning my career hopes and dreams. I started thinking I had made a bad mistake in my choice for a career, and sadly, started looking for a way out too.

"Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes."-Margaret Wheatley

Instead of quitting or finding another company, his behavior made me want to be a good employee, regardless of his coldness. The role model he was exuding made me want to learn more about character defects in bad managers. I started studying his attitudes, his facial expressions, his body language.

I learned that was who he really was, and no one could break a dent in him. He would retire and die a bad manager. I was just passing through, and I would take what negative ignorance I learned from him to NOT do those things to my future team.

Now rewind about fifteen years. Before I had children, I was a CSR, or customer service representative of a nationwide furniture company. You probably have heard of it: Heilig Meyers.

The store manager who hired me not only farted around on his computer all day, but let his croanie assistant manager degrade, yell, throw temper tantrums if we didn't do things his way. He eventually got fired, and we were without a store manager for several months. The assistant manager's abuse was so bad, he was transferred out and got fired at another store in time too.

The new manager they hired not only saw potential in everyone, he built his team up. I was promoted to Credit Manager, and he became my mentor. I got my insurance licensing and took credit classes so I could be a better manager to help the customers. He actively and always took interest in my development and always encouraged me to believe in myself. Because of his leadership, our store went from barely surviving to one of the top in the region.

Because of him, I learned the ropes in financing and customer service. Because of him, I learned respect and what a true leader is. His legacy as a good manager has followed me all these years. Sadly, Heilig Meyers filed for bankruptcy and closed the stores. I had already taken a job at a locally owned bank. Hence began a career in banking, customer service and collections.

So you can imagine me being repulsed with a bad manager, after having experienced and been mentored by a true leader. When you have had good leadership, it follows you. You see the signs in people. You notice the habits.

Bad managers can make better leaders. They should make you reassess your goals and habits. They should make you reevaluate your integrity and honesty.

"If you treat employees as if they make a difference to the company, they will make a difference."-Jim Goodnight

Overcoming Bad Leadership by Learning to be a Good Leader Yourself

"Most skills can be learned. But it is difficult to train people on their personality."-Sir Richard Branson

There is always one thing employees need if they are going to thrive in the workplace under bad management. Endurance: the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.

Let's say you are overweight, having health problems. You are miserable, a total wreck. You know things have to change. It's do or die. You must make a lifestyle change.

So you start going to the gym. You walk five minutes on the treadmill, it feels like an hour. You start lifting weights, you think your heart is going to explode in your chest.

But you keep at it. You don't give up.

No matter how uncomfortable it is, you know you have to do it. It's do or die.

A bad manager is the same thing. You can't quit your job. You can't give up. You must keep at it, do or die.

Let that bad manager show you how to be better. Let them show you how to get in shape. So then when it's time, you emerge a true leader, giving value to your team, to your company.

"Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."-Abraham Lincoln

© 2017 April Savage

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