Preventing Bullies as Leaders
Why does this happen and how do leaders prevent it from happening? What causes a newly assigned leader to become the epitome of Marshal Josip Broz Tito of the work place? They control the workforce with an iron fist. It is her way or the highway. Every task is micromanaged; the simplest of procedures must have her approval, even if spelled out in standard policy for the organization. The workplace continues to function only because the fear this leader instills in the workforce. She has turned herself into a common enemy. Luckily, this is the exception rather than the rule.
In the 30+ years of experience in both public and private sector leadership I have observed the primary reason new leaders turn into such dictators is because they are placed there because they are a good worker, follows company policy, and has been around long enough and done enough good for the company to deserve a promotion. They may very well possess the technical skill sets for the position, but the leadership skill set and other soft skills are often lacking. Do not get me wrong, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but what often accompanies this is another shortfall in leadership within the organization. The leaders fail to follow through with the promotion with sufficient mentoring to ensure success.
How can we keep it from happening? In a perfect world, learning organizations grow future leaders from the day they enter the workforce. Give them leadership responsibilities on occasion and provide constructive feedback on their performance, until such a time as they have developed the leadership and technical skills necessary for further advancement in the organization. However, we do not live in a perfect world. Organizations promote new leaders based on technical skill sets, with the thought being the rest will come with time. While this is possible, often organizations do not measure the loss of productivity and efficiency caused by an ill-prepared leader. This can include loss in operational capacity, human resources losses and the expense of hiring and training replacements, and loss caused by defective products due to inattention.
That leaves us with the inherent leadership responsibility of mentoring subordinates. As senior leaders in any organization, we owe it to our junior leaders to provide then with guidance and support ensuring them success in their new position. We must have the capacity to assist them without doing their job for them, to provide critical and constructive feedback on their performance, and most of all allow them to make decision on their own and experience the consequences of those decisions, good and bad. As we progress through the leadership positions in the organization we continue to provide mentorship to subordinate leaders, and with each increase in level of leadership the task becomes more difficult as the leader we are mentoring also begins to mentor his or her own subordinate leaders and the leadership style between levels begins to clash.