We talk about leadership almost ad nauseum in blog posts, workshops, seminars, keynotes, webinars, anyone who will listen to us!
We do this because leadership is often lacking in the very people who are in leadership roles. So we keep beating a dead horse, in the hopes that something sticks. If we keep talking about leadership skills they will hopefully become part of our collective consciousness.
Because the sad fact remains that many bosses and managers are not inspiring, do not effectively lead, do not create employee engagement, and all of the other positive aspects we hope to find when we go to work. Typically, as an employee, you are not in your dream job and you are working for someone you don’t find particularly inspiring. You may not even like the person as a person, never mind a leader.
There are many blog posts about knowing when it’s time to leave your job, how to nail your interview; how to create the perfect resume, what to look for in your prospective employer, but the harsh reality is we are often relegated to our jobs out of necessity. We should always strive to look for something better. I don’t advocate settling, but there will most likely be a period when you are working for someone you wish you weren’t.
So how do you keep your wits about you in this scenario without losing your mind?
- Raise yourself up if no one else is. If you’re not getting the leadership you desire from your boss or manager then be your own leader. Lift yourself This is an opportunity to flex and develop your own skillset. Read the books and blogs on leadership to hone your leadership abilities. I recommend Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, to cultivate a growth mindset, crucial for resilience and propelling forward in life. Vent privately if you need to, then regroup and take action. Being negative will only hurt.
- Raise everyone else up too if need be. If you feel your leader is operating at a lower level don’t lower yourself. Stay at your own level and have them come up to yours…respectfully. Though your ideas and views may sound strange at first to those that don’t share them they might come around in the long run. At least they’ll have been heard. Propose the ideas that you think are the best, do your best work. Combat mediocrity with excellence. Be a part of the solution.
- Recognize the lessons this person is teaching you. Listening to viewpoints you don’t share helps you move past biases and expand your mind. An undesirable leader teaches the lesson of how not to lead. Thank them (in your head) for showing you what not to do. Being able to see solutions through an optimistic lens will help you immensely throughout all areas of your life.
- Be diplomatic. Eloquence is a lost art. Much like scenarios that test our patience teach us patience, scenarios that test our discretion teach us diplomacy. This hones your communication skills, which is imperative for your personal and professional life. Resist the impulse to say or do something you can’t take back. Once you’re seen as a negative influence it’s very difficult to change someone’s mind about you. Diplomacy keeps everyone’s integrity intact.
- Practice empathy. When it comes down to it we’re all individuals with specific motivating factors for each of our lives. When we understand the why behind what we perceive as faulty leadership it can mitigate our frustration. There might be a very human reason for faulty leadership that elicits empathy rather than hate. We each have a past that created our core beliefs. Is yours better? For you it is. Don’t alienate yourself; ingratiate yourself, without being obsequious.
- Seek counsel from other leaders. Find other business owners if possible and bounce the behavior/opinions of your leader off someone else. It’s good to know where you might be wrong and skewed in your own thinking. Seeking counsel is in fact something I routinely suggest leaders themselves do. It’s important for everyone to have checks and balances in their lives to counter our own inherent biases.
- If you want to keep your job, do your job. You’ll know if being vocal about your opposing views is beneficial for you or not. Don’t be contrary for the sake of your ego. If you need your job and you’re not changing anyone’s mind then the best course of short-term action is to keep your opinions to yourself and do the job you were hired to do. Try not to burn any bridges.
Though it might not feel like much consolation in the moment, working for a leader you don’t believe in helps define your own needs and desires. It’s akin to dating in your romantic life: each relationship illuminates who you are, what you need, and what you want. So it goes with your professional life as well.
Understanding opposing viewpoints expands your consciousness, whether you like it or not. When you surround yourself with people of the same ilk, with the same beliefs, your worldview becomes narrow. Working for people that you don’t like or that make your life difficult are usually the best business lessons in life.
Leaders cultivate inclusivity. Become part of the solution, not the problem.