“Horrible Bosses”: A Powerful Wake-Up Call for Any Leader

Have you seen it yet? The movie “Horrible Bosses”… I’d like to think I’m not a horrible boss. Fortunately, when I asked my staff about this, on Facebook of all places, telling them I’d pay for their movie ticket and a bag of popcorn out of my own pocket as long as after viewing the movie they in fact confirmed I wasn’t a horrible boss, I received very positive feedback suggesting I’m actually a pretty good boss – I dare say maybe even better than many.

A CEO of a former client of mine used to always tell his leaders during the 3-day “Leadership Excellence” workshops we facilitated that leaders across the company typically work at 1-2 levels below their pay grade. The fact of the matter is that most leaders are promoted into their current positions simply because they excel technically at their jobs – not because they are well-skilled or trained in people management practices. So how do folks like this – and let’s face it, I’m clearly one of those very guys and gals – learn to be great bosses? Lots of on-the-job, trial-and-error experience and a willingness to be humble and learn along the way.

The good news for my team is that I know I’m not perfect, and I regularly give them permission to remind me of that. I only ask that they give me their best and that they take ownership for their own actions, because guess what… They’re not perfect either! We all make mistakes from time to time. The trick is turning those moments of what some would call “failures” into learning experiences – rather than blaming those around us or even worse that perfect storm of current circumstances – such that we produce different – and hopefully better – results the next time around.

So while it may not be the best movie ever produced for the big screen, “Horrible Bosses” does give us a strong foundation for evaluating leadership in our organizations and raising the bar for everyone. The three personas represented in the movie are clear exaggerations of what we might encounter in any organization – at least I sure hope they aren’t based on real leaders anywhere! – and still no organization led by horrible bosses can survive for long. In fact, one of the primary reasons good people leave their jobs can be tied directly back to their experiences with their bosses. People need to be empowered and challenged by their direct supervisors, not harassed and abused by them or told what to do.

Posted in Leadership, Management, organizational culture, Performance

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