Are you a quiet lousy leader?

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I love Bob Newhart’s comedy routines. One of my favorites is “The Driving Instructor.”

The routine is delivered in a nervous monologue and portrays a hapless and inept driving instructor paired with an astonishingly bad trainee. After a crash, the driving instructor turns to the student and says:

“No, that’s my fault, really. You see you were in the left hand lane, and you were signaling left, and I just more or less assumed you were going to turn left.”

In the words of the American philosopher Homer Simpson, “It’s funny ’cause it isn’t me.” But the tragedy is that there are bosses like that all over America.

They’re not lousy leaders because they’re loud or abusive. They’re lousy leaders because of what they don’t do.

If you don’t set clear and reasonable expectations, you’re a lousy leader. What do you want your team members to do, guess what you want? If they have to guess, I guarantee that some of them will come up with things you don’t like.

If you don’t follow up to check on performance or behavior, you’re a lousy leader. Just telling people what you want isn’t enough. You have to make sure they understand. You have to correct them early.

If you don’t hold people accountable for their behavior and performance, you’re a lousy leader. The people who do well should be praised and rewarded and those who don’t should suffer the consequences in accordance with their deeds. The Consequences Fairy will not come at night and do this for you.

If you won’t make the decisions you should be making, you’re a lousy leader. There are lots of ways to not make a decision. One of the most popular is simply to delay and study or “think about” the problem. This frustrates your good people and reminds them that you’re a lousy leader.

If you don’t actively encourage your people and help them grow and develop, you’re a lousy leader, too. Your objective isn’t only to accomplish the mission. It’s also to grow your people.

Quiet lousy leaders don’t get the attention that the loud-mouthed jerks get. But don’t be fooled they’re just as toxic to productivity and morale.

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