How to (Not) Be a Great Leader

There shouldn’t be any manuals for how to be a great leader, but there are definitely ways to avoid being a bad one.

A title like ‘How to be a great leader’ is usually followed by some waffle from a half-baked expert telling you how he (and I bet it usually is a ‘he’) would be a great leader and how he would inspire his vast empire. It’s also normally about as useful as the proverbial chocolate fireguard, and one of the reasons he is not a great leader at all.

Further to this, if we’re being honest it’s likely that you aren’t a great leader and sure as sh*t, neither am I. Why? Because it’s bloody hard to be a leader at all, and the higher up you lead, the harder it gets and most of us make some chunky mistakes. So, sorry to disappoint, but there are no pictures of me out there standing next to rented Lamborghinis, in a rented villa or on a boat, extolling my own virtues.

The plain truth of the matter is we aren’t all-natural born leaders and we don’t have some inner magnetism that marks out the truly great leaders; like those who inspire an entire nation or create and run huge Bezosian businesses. We are normal people trying to get on, to do our best and win in our own way. And you know what? That’s OK.

For me, leadership is in the individual and I believe there is no correct way to do it. There are, however, lots of incorrect ways:

Raising your voice or any other verbal bullying

I’ve watched Full Metal Jacket and the scene where the shouty Sergeant shouts is fab cinema, however it’s a terrible way to communicate. If you need to shout, you have lost the discussion and likely some respect already. You will not be keeping good people around in your business for long if you treat them this way.

Not taking holidays, and other such machine-like actions

Everyone needs downtime. It makes you better at work, so you need to take holidays and show your staff that it’s the way forward. Take the week, go away and fix your old car, do some DIY or whatever floats your boat, but show them downtime is important, by taking some downtime.

Being late

Just because you are someone’s boss doesn’t give you the right to rudeness. You need to show everyone that time is important and that you respect theirs. If you are going to be busy, re-schedule. No-one minds, but don’t consistently show up late.

Don’t be rude!

I shouldn’t need to say this but I’ve worked for some objectionable sods in the past. You as a boss need to show how you expect the rest of your team to behave. Lead by example.

Not listening

This is a whole blog, perhaps even a book, and if I’m honest something at which I can be pretty poor. If you are on the extroverted side, this is 100% for you. Others have great ideas, often better than yours. You need to hear them and to hear them, you need to listen. I try to speak less than those around me where possible, because I already know what’s in my own head and it’s their ideas I need to hear.

Inevitably, despite starting out this article quite well it has still turned into one of those holier-than-thou preachy blog posts.

Bottom-line, what I mean is that the vast majority don’t find this leadership stuff easy. They aren’t 100% natural at this and that’s cool. However, that doesn’t stop us from trying our best and, just as importantly, not turning into an egotistical monster somewhere along the way.

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Author: Alec Dobbie

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