By Steve Moran

No one sets out to be a bad manager.

This was more or less a throwaway line in some book or article I was recently reading but it really hit home.

When I hear people talk about their leaders/managers in less than glowing terms, it pains my heart, and yet I know how hard it is.

At Senior Living Foresight, we have always been this really tight little group of people committed to a cause. But we have experienced significant growth over the last 15 months, which means new team members and more leadership complexity. We are still a small group of people who are committed to a cause and I am delighted with every single team member. But each one has their own personality, dreams, and weirdness (including or especially me).

We are experiencing first-hand leadership growth pains. And I wish I could tell you that we . . .scratch that . . . I am handling it with perfect alacrity, but I am not. It is hard.

But I am determined to not be a Bad Manager/Bad Leader.  

Bad Managers

Bad managers come in 3 flavors:

1. Intentionally Exploitive

These are individuals who get their juice from having control over other people. They tend to believe they are never wrong; that they are smarter than everyone else. They also look down on every single person who works for them. If you have a leader like this, you should start looking for a new job. Those people are unlikely to be readers or fans of Senior Living Foresight.

And yet, these people did not wake up thinking they wanted to be a bad manager; in fact, though perverted, they actually think this is good leadership.

2. Accidentally Bad

This group ranges from really bad, to just not very good. They have never really gotten much leadership training and primarily lead based on what they have seen other managers do. Since there are more “not-so-great” managers than good ones, they don’t really know what else to do.

They likely feel stressed out and wish it could be better, but assume leading in a not-so-great fashion is the best it can be. They often think it is because they don’t get the right support from their leaders or that if they had better people to lead it would be a lot better.

You might even be seeing yourself in some of this. If you do, that is great news, because trust me, it can get better, you can get better. Your team members want to be led by you and they want to do a great job for you and your organization.

If you work for someone like this, it would be worthwhile to think of strategies you can do subtly to help them lead better . . . a kind of positive subversion. 

3. Discouraged Bad

The hard reality is that even when a manager leader does everything 100% right, pours their entire heart into being a great leader, things will go really wrong with a team member or two. When this happens it feels overwhelming and it becomes tempting to fall into bad manager mode.

The first chapter in my book Lead Don’t Manage is titled “When They Kick You In The Teeth” and it is the last chapter I wrote. The book was almost ready to go to print and I had a horrible experience with this kind of situation. I am not saying I was perfect in every sense, but I was doing the best I could and it counted for nothing.

Discouraged bad managers give in to attacks and let themselves be overwhelmed rather than rise above. Rising above is really hard because we all want to say, “What did I learn from this?” But once in a while, the answer is nothing; you just got unlucky.

The question every leader, every manager needs to be asking is this: What kind of manager/leader are you going to be today?

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