month of February, Americans celebrate the lives and legacies of our two
greatest presidents: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Let’s briefly contrast
the effective leadership styles of Washington and Lincoln against the traits of
toxic bosses and their styles of bad management:
Watch for these
six signs to know if you’re working for a bad boss:
- Ignores core values. Leaders should be part visionary, part sales rep, part
mentor and part lifelong learner. Yet one responsibility tops them all: Great leaders
are the moral compass for those around them. The difference between a great
culture and bad management
“[A] good moral character is the first essential in a man…it is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous.” -George Washington
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” -Abraham Lincoln
- Communicates poorly. How can you expect others to choose to work for you if you’re unable to inspire,
explain, teach and praise? You needn’t speak like Lincoln, but you must understand
that your actions matter as much as your words, and that it’s vital to achieve
buy-in among your stakeholders.
“Few who are not philosophical spectators can realize the difficult and delicate part which a man in my situation had to act. I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent.” -George Washington
“With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who molds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.” -Abraham Lincoln
- Micromanages. To be a micromanager is to lack trust in yourself, the process, your people or all three. To ensure accountability and to achieve your objectives, clear expectations, consistent follow-up, and reliable (and visible) measures of performance are the keys.
“My observation is that whenever one person is found adequate to the discharge of a duty… it is worse executed by two persons, and scarcely done at all if three or more are employed therein.” -George Washington
“You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.” -Abraham Lincoln
- Acts as the center of their universe. If your boss must always be the smartest person in the
room, can’t handle the truth, or takes all the credit and none of the responsibility,
you might be working alongside a narcissist. Washington and Lincoln were ambitious.
Yet each tempered his ego, sought advice and counsel from adversaries as well
as supporters, and heaped praise on those who were helping them achieve goals they
cared about deeply.
“But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.” -George Washington
“We needed the strongest men…in the cabinet. I had looked the party over and concluded these [rivals] were the very strongest men. Then I had no right to deprive the country of their services.” -Abraham Lincoln
- Scolds and doesn’t encourage. Washington and Lincoln led in times of crisis and so
they valued the art of lifting up those around them while expecting high
standards to be met. Bad bosses blame; great leaders coach.
“Example, whether it be good or bad, has a powerful influence. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other.” -George Washington
“He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help.” -Abraham Lincoln
- Tolerates poor performance. By failing to address underperformers, a bad boss signals
to top performers it’s not worth them giving their best. When it comes to bad management, nothing undermines
morale—and, ultimately organizational performance—more deeply than failing to
address the underperformance that is evident to all.
“Ninety-nine percent of
failures come from people who make excuses. So it is infinitely better to have a
few good men than many indifferent ones.” George Washington
“You cannot escape the
responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Abraham Lincoln
Bad management comes in many forms. So,
too, does great leadership.
are the best and worst traits of leaders you’ve known?
What top three or four characteristics do you want to be known for? If
you were to articulate your leadership philosophy, what would it reveal?