Was the theme exposed and discussed in a new style seminar (called Bad leader) that has been launched by the Marketing Society’ new CEO, Gemma Greaves.
50 or so society members sat in the round in a session moderated by leadership expert and coach Steve Radcliffe. Two people shared stories of being on the receiving of painfully bad leadership. Observations were invited from the floor. And former leaders felt compelled to ‘fess up having been bad leaders. Glasses of wine loosened tongues.
The stats are dispiriting.
In a large survey only 38% of people said that their organisation was well lead. That leaves 62% that are underperforming because they are not getting the best out of their people. The impact of leadership is well attested. Schools, for example, with the similar resources and socio-demographic profiles, can deliver good or bad education depending on the quality of the head teacher. Getting more from the same (or less resources) is the drum beat of our times and particularly of the education debate so there can surely be no more important investment than leadership training.
Behind the bald stats lies much human heartache.
Millions waking up in the morning with a sense of dread after a sleepless night. And worse- bullying, depression and sickness.
Once bright eyed and motivated workers start to think more about how they can leave their organisation than doing a great job. Bad leadership has huge economic and personal costs.
The tragedy of leadership is that we live our lives forwards and learn what we should have done by looking backwards later. Leaders (mostly) get the job first time round by having been great operators and managers, which does not prepare them for how leadership is different. An investment on training and mentorship at the point of promotion can deliver both better performance as well as human flourishing for both leaders and lead.
The seminar gave a taster for the experience of attending a full training session with Steve Radcliffe. There were useful insights on offer such as
-Leaders need to know who their support team is – their sounding board and support
-Leaders need to communicate their vision and (very important this) keep communicating it (even when v busy and under pressure)
-leaders need to create a safe space where the views of others in the company can be heard
-People want consistency – when leaders veer dramatically from one mood or point view to another it can cause confusion and anxiety.
-Leaders need to be able to stand back and evaluate their own behaviour – why are they behaving aggressively or steamrolling their team when they are in “get things done” mode.
Another side to the story was also revealed. Often working for a really bad leader can be the making of you. Observing one in action can make you determined not to repeat his or her errors when you get the top job. It can also force you to re-evaluate what you really want and go for it, get out and start something new. Bad leaders can trigger resilience and determination in their subordinates.
Bad leadership, then, is bad, but can have benign un-intended consequences.