Who were your best or worst leaders?
Thousand Reflections by Sandbox
About Thousand Reflections: Sandbox is full of people from all walks of life and background. Here, we try to tap into this collective wisdom by offering a prompt bi-weekly and sourcing short responses from the members.
This week’s prompt
Our prompt is very simple: just tell us a story about some of the best or worst leaders you’ve had, and why.
I hold a very dear and grateful souvenir for the people who inspired and helped me grow (managers, teachers). Here are some features I have noticed and remembered, with the hope I can, little by little, integrate them in my way of doing:
They do not treat others with superiority, ask for their opinion and give them freedom and space to experiment and grow their ideas. They never look for somebody to blame when things go wrong, but focus on finding a solution. They set example by their dedication to work but do not forget living and having fun. They are open to suggestions and do not take things personally. They are well connected and always take time to talk to people. They respect other’s time by keeping agreed times and timelines. They are not afraid to experiment and take risks but they do this in a responsible way. They know how to manage their emotions but still remain very human. They are thorough and well organized. They are resilient.
On the other hand, I am also grateful for the managers that gave me a ‘not this way’ example, because they too, fostered my growth. Not willingly, but they did.
Here is what I came across: Usually they let their mood decide on how they lead, which makes that you never know how they will react, as their reaction is based on how they got up in the morning, not on the quality of your work. They do not pay attention to other’s schedule as they assume they are top and only priority, not respecting agreed times. They do not share information, are not transparent, do not set rules and guidelines which creates a lot of confusion and friction among employees. They hold eternal useless meetings where everybody gets deadly bored and that are extremely non-productive just because they like to hear themselves talk. They do not set a vision, targets, timelines, they do not encourage or empower, they criticize and belittle people, are often biased and limited by their personal point of view. They create a working environment where you invest most of your energy in keeping stable and checking things around, instead of doing your real work. They create a waste of resources and emotions.
From the family perspective I admire my father a lot. My mother was a psychiatric patient all her life, so my father took care of the family. He took care of his job but always also took care of the other family members. But he did not take good care of his health. Still, he empowered a lot of people from our region and they are still grateful to him even though he passed away several years ago.
My first boss at work was kind of similar, although I had a love hate relationship with him. We used to argue a lot and I used to criticize him harshly on many issues. But I also liked his approach to solving problems. I learned a lot from him in the first 4 years of my career. He had many fault and we used to argue a lot, but he also had many good sides. I mostly admired his positive attitude and the fact that he would protect his staff if needed. Also, we could discuss about a lot different issues of life outside of work. I even invited him many times to my place — I liked our ability to have a friendly relationship outside of work.
I don’t follow very well. I know it, too. I’m not a great team player, and I often find myself in leadership positions just because I’m too impatient to wait for someone else to do it — and then try to do everything myself because I can be a bit of a control freak.
With that said, the leaders that I look up most are often teachers. My best teachers have been those that meet me head on, that challenge me to be a better version of myself. Also, the best managers I’ve had are those that allow me to carve out my own position and work. My manager at Cambodian Living Arts, for example, wasn’t a great manager for many people — he was a visionary, but not really a manager. But for me, he allowed me to create a role for myself and then live it out.
I think the worst managers are those who, ironically, ‘manage.’ A different boss in Cambodia managed with great energy, inventing convoluted systems for his staff, demanding extra effort without explanation for why, making constant checks on work that made staff feel watched and paranoid. I met him head on and made my own role, so I was okay, but I learned a lot about what not to do by watching him!
This is the second part on our May series on Leadership. If you enjoy this series, be sure to click the green heart to recommend and follow the publication so you never miss an issue!