My best boss, Jerry Nutter, helped me understand that everything a leader does either helps, hinders, or hurts the employee’s performance or the leader’s relationship with their employee. Leadership stupidity carries a big cost.
Two examples come to mind – both from my non-profit days.
An Example of My Leadership Stupidity
The first example is from one of my earliest management experiences. I was a newbie at influencing others. I tried my best every day. Some things I did worked great – and a few things were NOT remotely helpful.
In this instance, I was struggling with a highly skilled employee who wasn’t contributing like she once was. She was demonstrating all the classic signs of demotivation. In staff meetings and during individual conversations, she’d sigh heavily or roll her eyes if she was asked about her tasks or deadlines. Other staff members were complaining about her behavior. One day I decided to “take the bull by the horns.” I set up a meeting with her and, as soon as we sat down, I told her that she was a valued member of the team but that she had a crappy attitude. I used a more colorful term than “crappy.”
If I was hoping to shock her, I did. Unfortunately, my language derailed any hope of getting to the core issue – her “demotivated persona.” It took me weeks to get back on an even keel with her and to attempt to address her behavior.
The Impact of My Boss’ Leadership Stupidity
The second example was later in my non-profit career. Fundraising is a big part of non-profit work and this was the closing dinner of a month-long fundraising campaign. More than 100 staff & volunteers were in attendance from branches across the county. My board chairman and I were ready to announce the total raised by our small branch – more than they’d ever raised before. Just before the program began my boss pulled me aside and asked me to announce a higher total than we’d raised. “You’ll continue raising funds through the year – are you confident you’ll hit this number by December?” he asked.
I hoped my boss’ suggestion was well-intended; we would continue raising funds. However, he was asking me – and my key volunteer – to “stretch the truth” that night. I refused.
The relationship with my boss was destined for difficulty from that evening forward. I experienced a values-mismatch that I could not ignore. Within a year, I had left that organization.
Leaders cannot afford to hinder or hurt employee performance or relationships. Two ideas may help: Integrity and Impact.
In his book, The Integrity Dividend, Cornell University professor Tony Simons found that when leaders 1) do what they say they will do and 2) demonstrate their organization’s values, employee commitment goes up, customer service rankings go up, and profits go up. Those are powerful and desirable outcomes of leader integrity!
Leaders must also keep their “fingers on the pulse” of their impact on employee performance and relationships. How do leaders gauge the quality of their relationships? Ask employees! Leaders will learn where and how they can refine behaviors and approaches to help – not hinder or hurt.
What leadership stupidity have YOU experienced – or even delivered? What was the impact of that stupidity? Tell us in the comments section below.
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