There are certain sights in life that you never forget once you see them — Grand Canyon, Fenway Park, Eiffel Tower, to name a few. Here’s another one: bad leadership. Nothing stains a work experience like having an incompetent or untrustworthy boss. Even now, you can probably conjure an image of the leader you were under or you hired that exhibits those negative characteristics of poor leadership - failure to accept accountability, unable to take feedback or recognizing strengths in others, etc. Regardless of your situation, the question remains: What do you do with a bad leader?
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being under a bad leader, then pause and take a deep breath. It’s vitally important to resist the notion to believe that you are trapped. Now is the time to recognize this situation for what it is: a good challenge. This is a growth opportunity that allows you to take agency with your career. A bad leader may have a lot of influence on your career path, but they do not own it. While you can’t control all of the circumstances in your life, you can control how you will respond. Don’t go through it, grow through it!
When you find yourself with a case of poor leadership, you should consider some other options that will make up for the deficit you’re experiencing in your career. Perhaps you should take on a side hustle. Oftentimes, side hustles in the form of freelance or “piecework” are discussed in the context of earning a few extra dollars, but they can be just as valuable when it comes to learning new skills. Take growth into your own hands by picking up extra work that allows you to continue to develop professionally.
Also, you should do the work in your current role as hard and efficiently as you possibly can. Bad leadership is not an excuse for bad work. Through that hard work and efficiency, you will free up bandwidth to pick up additional work in other departments. Thereby, increasing your visibility and value to new leadership. Finally, solicit and implement advice from other leaders in the organization. Think about setting up informal coffee dates or meetings that allow you to pick the brains of leaders on what they’ve observed about ways to grow within the organization. Remember: this is not the time to air your grievances! You shouldn’t use this time to vent about your specific situation and its challenges, but rather get a gauge on their insights about how to best maximize your time in the company. Leaders will take notice of your initiative.
In conclusion, no one can stop you from adding value. Just because you have a bad leader does not mean you are absolved from the responsibility to keep performing with integrity. Bad leaders don’t excuse bad behavior. Bad leaders mean that it may take a little longer, but you will break through eventually. Do what you can with what you have and flip the script. Think about how this experience is making you a better person. And ultimately, it will make you a better leader when you’re in their shoes. And what a sight that will be to behold!