Fact: most people have had at least one boss during their lifetime who was so bad that it made them question their entire career. Take that information and chew on it for a moment. Isn't it awful? I've been doing some reflecting on what makes a person suited for leadership roles large and small. Some people, given the wrong set of circumstances, can turn into truly toxic bosses. Here are four kinds of bosses who can turn any job into the stuff of nightmares--and tips on how to avoid becoming them:
1. The one who thinks his or her direct reports are mind readers. One of the easiest--and worst--mistakes you can make as a leader is to make assumptions about what your people understand about your team's overall mission. Clarity and communication are the two most important commandments there are in leadership. The best leaders communicate early and often, especially when troubleshooting problems or managing change. The ones who fall short get mad when people do things that aren't aligned with what they thought everyone knew. We all know what assuming does, right? It makes an ass of--OK, seriously, just tell people what you want already. Your team shouldn't have to contact the Long Island Medium to figure out what you're looking for.
The fix : Be as transparent as possible at all times when providing feedback. Be direct and don't play games. Unless the game is Connect Four. That's always a winner.
2. The one who's in it for personal gain and nothing else. Nothing does more to kill a team's motivation and morale than a manager who basks in the limelight of recognition at the expense of the people who actually did the work. The best leaders make an effort to make sure they personally receive as little attention as possible, allowing the team to enjoy the lion's share of the glory. This leads to happier, more fulfilled employees.
The fix : Talk up your team's accomplishments whenever you can to internal audiences that matter. Great bosses actively work to advance their direct reports' careers. As the saying goes, they give the credit and take the blame.
3. The one who is completely unpredictable. The unlucky among us have bosses who manage to create a working environment that resembles the movie Saw, where personnel are thrust into crazy, high-stakes situations that succeed in inspiring panic and terror, in no small part due to the fact that nobody can anticipate whether they'll encounter happy-go-lucky, "Go get 'em, kiddo!" boss or angry-bear-from-The-Revenant boss when they run into snags in the fabric of productivity.
The fix : A good leader's responses should always be predictable. Consistency creates happy, well-adjusted people. Unsurprisingly, it also creates happy, well-adjusted children when parents embrace it. Great leaders operate like the best parents in this way.
4. The one who keeps all the secrets. I once had a boss who was so paranoid that he tried to prevent as little information as possible--even about totally mundane, day-to-day operational things--from trickling down to the team. Not even Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption could have busted that information out of its bureaucratic prison. The end result, of course, was that my team members and I felt like nobody trusted us or valued us enough to keep us in the loop.
The fix : Be honest and upfront with the people working for you. Even about the less-than-pleasant things. This goes a long way towards making people feel like you've got their backs.