When I was a youngin’ I did not appreciate the study of history. I used to think that reading about some old guys who founded this country or started that war was about as interesting as watching paint dry or grass grow. As I got older though I began to see the wisdom in paying attention to the past because it just might hold explanations for where we are in the present. One thing that has become very evident is how leadership has changed over the decades not just in terms of political leaders but leaders in society.
The last really strong leader I remember as President was Ronald Reagan. While he always did not get exactly what he wanted every-time, he did see fit to include everyone’s opinion on issues that America faced and all decisions were done with the attitude of “what is good for America and her people”. The Presidents after Reagan left quite a bit to be desired as far as leadership traits. Bush I was a taxation proponent even though he claimed otherwise. Clinton was always about Clinton. The USA during the Clinton years had a President who was more interested in his own sexual desires over everything that might have been happening in the world, but even worse he unleashed the horror of his wife Hillary onto the American political landscape. Bush II was compassionate to a fault and just really appeared to be in over his head. Obama was the least qualified and exhibited absolutely no leadership skills when he ran the country and as a result citizens suffered accordingly. President Trump has exhibited leadership by actually attempting to accomplish promises he made while campaigning but after the Obama years many people accuse Trump of being anything but a leader. Sorry, personally I enjoy having a President who seemly loves his country. Obama always looked and acted like he hated America and just did everything he could to punish her.
History is filled with great leaders: Politically, Winston Churchill & Margret Thatcher come to mind. Business wise Steven Jobs & Bill Gates. History also has had and currently suffers from bad leaders: Politically, Angela Merkel & Kim Jung-Un. Business wise, well look at any companies who have had issues recently like Blue Apron or MySpace and you will probably find a leader who was severely lacking in leadership skills. Leadership skills even help or harm people on a personal level. For instance, I have always enjoyed success in my chosen field when I have had managers who did everything they could to help employees succeed. Unfortunately I have also had a few managers who were more inclined to make sure employees didn’t succeed. Not sure what motivated or motivates managers like this but they sure make it difficult to accomplish your goals or even work in a comfortable environment.
The best manager I ever worked for was my boss when I worked in the defense industry. He always made sure we had the tools and equipment to do our jobs to the best of our abilities but he also provided further training and a relaxed atmosphere in which to work. His basic rule was “If I never hear a complaint about your work I will always give you the highest raise possible”. He always kept his word and by far that job was the best place I ever worked for. Alas the economy crashed and in 2009 my job was outsourced when a larger corporation took over. Leadership should help employees be successful and as a result help the leader of that department succeed. At least that is how I always believed the employee/manager relationship should be done for optimum results.
Alas I have also worked for managers who always looked out for themselves and were quick to blame their employees for every setback and mistake no matter how big or small. These so-called leaders exhibit no leadership skills and even exhibit several bad traits which I have seen several times at various places I have worked. These are tell-tale signs that a manager is just not a good leader, at least in my opinion. These bad leadership traits are:
1- Someone who is constantly reminding people they communicate with, that they have a degree or several degrees. Now being proud you graduated from a reputable college is an accomplishment but do people have to be reminded of this with every e-mail signature that has to include your degree info. Probably not, if you’re in management you probably have a degree even though I would posit that a college degree is probably no more valuable today than a high school degree was in years past. Actually a number of articles I have read regarding good leadership qualities have stated humility as being an important component for good leadership. Hubris on the other hand is a definite negative trait.
2- Someone who plays favorites. This shortcoming unfortunately causes jealousy and a sense of entitlement. Now both of those negative traits are widely practiced and are all to frequently used to divide our country politically. On a smaller but equally important scale a workplace being run with these traits is not usually a happy place. A combative atmosphere at work causes bad morale and prevents people from properly doing their job to the best of their ability. In some respects this issue reminds me of socialism. Openly a socialist leader will advertise his system or method of managing is equal for all. Problem is even in a socialist system there are always people who will be more equal than others when it comes to raises or promotions. Again just my opinion.
3- Someone who makes decisions based on who asks or poses a question. For instance, someone asks for clarification on an ongoing issue they encounter. A good leader will offer a decision based on what is relevant as far as a resolution for the issue at hand. A bad leader might tell one person not to worry about the issue because it doesn’t concern them, or if the issue is caused by someone or something this manager favors he might express surprise and attempt to divert blame to someone or something else to save face. Flip flopping on issues is never good whether it be politics or business.
4- The theory of relativity. Now I am not talking about the late, great Albert Einstein. I am talking about leaders who may have a powerful connection to someone with important ties to the company they work for. For instance years ago I worked for a major insurance company that specialized in insurance for senior citizens. The manager in the IT department was a total moron with a degree in business from a college I can’t recall. He openly bragged about his ability to drink and party while ‘earning’ that degree. He made a serious judgement error that cost the company thousands of dollars and consequently he was ‘let go’ for mismanagement. Imagine everyone’s surprise when he returned to work several weeks later with a new office and job title. How was this possible? Well, this manager had married well while partying hardy at his school of choice. His wife’s family had a huge investment in the company and after her intervention he was not only back at work but had a promotion and raise to reward his incompetence. Hence a powerful relative working behind the scenes is priceless and defines this job related theory of relativity.
Anyway that is a list of traits I look for when a new leader is introduced on any level that might impact me or my way of life. Those negative traits have proven to be fairly accurate whether I am examining political appointees or a new boss at work. Again I find having six plus decades of life experience as enlightening. When I was younger I usually didn’t care one way or another who I worked for, I just did my job and collected a pay check. As I have grown older especially since I was laid off in 2009 I find I like the people I work with a heck of a lot more than the people I work for. Alas as an older worker job opportunities are very few as age discrimination is prevalent. Luckily retirement is just a few years away. I look forward to that day with much anticipation since I will then have plenty of time to blog and such.
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