3 Ineffective Leaders: The Jerk, People Pleaser & Tough Cookie

Published by 5280 HR on

We may not readily notice good leaders, but we certainly recognize ineffective leaders when we see them. In my coaching practice, I routinely hear stories about the best and worst leaders out there. In today’s post, we’re going to build off of our last blog post and continue exploring interpersonal skills. We are specifically going to examine how jerks, people pleasers and tough cookies are all ineffective leadership styles and some positive steps they can take to improve.

The Jerk

The command and control style of days past are obsolete. People want a boss who cares about them as a person.

Jerks are ineffective leaders. In fact, being a jerk is no longer acceptable in today’s workplace. People simply won’t put up with it. With 65.6% of the workforce estimated to be under 44 years of age by 2030, there is no room for jerk bosses. Today’s employees want a boss that cares about them as a person. That trend is not likely to change. 

I do a lot of consulting and coaching work within the A/E/C (Architecture/Engineering/Construction) industry. Historically, superintendents have a reputation for being yellers. However, this persona has quickly become outdated in recent years. I routinely hear from today’s modern superintendents that they do NOT want to be known as a yeller OR work for yellers. The command and control style of days past are gone. It’s that simple. Command and control bosses today should consider the following to become more effective leaders:

  • Build in accountability. Let a few trusted colleagues know you are working on improving your interpersonal skills and ask for permission to check in with them periodically. Then after a month, actually follow-up. Say, “Remember me sharing that I was working on being [nicer/collaborative/kinder]? Have you noticed any changes?” 
  • Clear the air with your team, particularly if you know that you have been difficult to work with. Be transparent and open with your communication. It may surprise you, but self-disclosure builds trust. This will go a long way in mending damaged relationships.

The People Pleaser

People pleasers are often smiling outwardly, but struggling internally to keep up with the demands of making everyone happy.

Have you ever worked for a boss who wanted to make everyone happy? People pleasers make ineffective leaders because they often please others to their own detriment. They don’t work on the RIGHT things. They often end up miserable and burned out because they never say no. Many have also not learned the art of effective delegation.

People pleasers are genuinely nice people and well-liked, but this does not mean they are effective. To break out of the people pleasing cycle, try taking time to reflect. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Before taking on an assignment, ask yourself, “Is this something I should do?” If not, delegate. When you delegate, you are giving others the opportunity to use their skills and shine.
  • If you struggle with saying no (but know you should) ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I say no?” When you really stop to think about it, it is usually not THAT bad.
  • Ask yourself, “What is the story I am making up by feeling like I have to say yes?” We often create assumptions and stories in our head that simply are not true.

The sooner you start setting boundaries and stop saying yes, the sooner you will notice greater career success. You’ll also have a healthier and happier life because you are not trying to do it all.

Being mean-spirited towards any group of people can land you with serious complaints and constant turnover.

Tough cookies also make ineffective leaders. Think about the difficult bosses you have had over the years. Have you ever run across someone who is harder on a certain group of people? Maybe they are a boss who is tough on employees of the opposite gender. Perhaps they tougher on their own gender. Regardless, it is usually obvious to everyone who works with them. In an exit interview, I once had an employee who said she was sick of seeing how her female boss was treating all the male employees. She was tired of it. It wasn’t warranted and she just couldn’t put up with it anymore. Ouch! 

The sad truth is that most of the time the tough exterior is just a protective shell that is built around a boss who is very insecure. If you fit into that category, consider taking the following steps:

  • Ask yourself, “What are the stories I am making up about myself that aren’t true?” and “How are those stories impacting how I show up at work?”
  • Set an intention on how you want to be. In a previous blog, I talked about writing down daily acknowledgements. There is power in this simple act.
  • Consider filling out The Clarity Chart each week for the next 8 weeks. See what a huge impact this has on how you show up and treat others.

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