A Crumbling Business:
The Catastrophic Effects of a Boss Who Can’t Lead
Do you like it when your boss has a plan and direction for the business?
Do you like it when your boss steps up and provides leadership for the company?
Do you like it when your boss is able to communicate and lay out this plan?
If these things are in place, it sure helps give you a sense of security as you head in to work every day.
But many employees don’t experience this.
Thankfully, that’s the topic of today’s post: how to function in a business where the boss provides no leadership.
WARNING: if you haven’t already read the first article in this series there’s a solid chance you might be a little unclear of the direction I’m headed in.
And, well, if I let you carry on without that knowledge I wouldn’t be providing good leadership, would I?
Between now and then, I’ll give you some actionable steps you can take to shield yourself from a boss who isn’t able to lead. In fact, there’s one solution that will eliminate your need to have a boss completely. But I’m getting ahead of myself — that will all come later.
For the boss who is incapable of being a leader “The Free Ride Boss.”
I’m giving him this name because rather than trying to take his role seriously and lead his employees he is ignoring his responsibilities in order to make his life easier. Hence, he’s trying to get a free ride.
Oh, look….you can see him passing the buck as we speak.
Spotting a Boss Who Isn’t a Leader…
Even Though He Tries So Hard to be Invisible
The office was dimly lit and not overly inviting.
The fact that the door remained closed the vast majority of the time was itself symbolic of the separation and lack of accessibility between Perry (the boss) and his employees.
And this played perfectly into Perry’s wishes as he largely didn’t want to deal with any issues that the employees or the business might have.
Even though he thought he could handle conflict and lead, Perry ran at the first sign of it.
He tried to present an image of being tough — often trying to force his employees do the tough things that he should: hire and fire workers, reprimand and hold employees accountable.
Even though the sign he hung in his office boasted, “The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves”, when it came right down to it, Perry cowered at the thought of having to be a leader if it involved anything outside of his comfort zone.
He would have been shocked — no, deeply offended — if someone had told him that he wasn’t a good leader because in his head he always told himself that he was — in fact — an incredible leader.
So he sat in his office with the door closed, surfing the internet…turning a blind eye to his company’s need for solid leadership.
Sue was pretty frazzled by the time she headed to Perry’s office.
“You’ve picked up way too many jobs for this coming week,” she blurted out before wincing inwardly.
Her job’s probably not secure enough for her to talk to her boss like that.
Sue exhales slowly before continuing: “We already have eleven jobs in the queue, and you added five more today.”
“Oh, those? I was meaning to tell you — put them at the top of the list,” Perry says, barely glancing up before returning his attention to the game he’s playing on his phone.
“But our earlier customers were promised deliveries by Friday. One of those customers is a huge client with a lot of influence. If we upset him…”
“Well, the new jobs are favors for some friends… and they now have top priority.”
“We can’t possibly finish all these projects in time. The customers — “
“They’ll just have to wait their turn.”
Sue continues, and even manages to get Perry to agree to outsource some work to a different company in order to fulfill the promised delivery dates — or so she thinks.
The next day, Sue is at the point of a panic attack as she flies into Tom’s office.
“He canceled the outsourcing plan!” Sue shrieks…about to explode.
Her co-worker is unmoved. “Yeah, he does that. Let me guess: ‘too complicated’?”
“No, he just jumped to some other project and said he forgot to do the paperwork for it. Our ratings are already down because of delayed deliveries. You… don’t seem very concerned,” she notices.
“This has happened a million times before,” Tom says. “The boss is in the driver’s seat of this company and is looking everywhere except the road as he swerves all over the place. Then — just as we’re about to crash — one of us will finally take control and grab the wheel to steer the company back to safety. Once everything is fine and the crisis passes, Perry will slap your hand away from the steering wheel. Because once the crisis is over, he wants control again.”
“Better to get slapped than watch the company crash,” Sue insists.
“All right.” Tom stands. “We can contact the local high school’s shop class and offer an unpaid internship to the older teens — they’ll love it.”
Outsourcing jobs to high schoolers is like playing with fire, but Sue’s desperate. “Good idea,” she says. “I’ll tell Perry.”
“No. He won’t agree — you barely got him to agree to the first outsourcing plan, didn’t you?”
Sue nods. “So you’re saying… just do it?”
“We’ll deal with the blow-back afterwards…if he even notices. We’re the only leaders here.”
Perry does notice, and the resulting blow-back definitely feels like a slap, but at least all the jobs are finished on time.
The “Easy to Spot” Symptoms of a Boss Who Can’t Lead
There were no thanks given to the staff for what they had pulled off — only more criticism.
With all the uncertainty and upheaval that’s going on in the world and business today, having a boss who is unable to provide effective leadership only adds to the stress.
It’s the boss’ job to lead and communicate the plan while plotting a course of action for the business going forward.
And if there is no concrete plan or course of action or if it seems to change every couple of hours based on the boss’ latest whim, it creates turmoil and frustration within the company.
Eventually, seeing the lack of leadership some staff members will attempt to step in and try to lead the organization to help fill the void.
Oftentimes when this happens, the boss feels threatened because someone else is doing what he knows — deep down — he should be doing.
This tension can eventually fracture the company, with most of the staff naturally gravitating towards the person who is providing some form of leadership (regardless of whether that’s the boss or not).
It can get pretty tricky, pretty quickly.
Just how do you deal with “The Free Ride Boss”?
Your Blueprint to Deal With “The Free Ride Boss”
Here are a few ideas:
1) You’ll have to babysit him or her. More specifically you’ll have to get their attention and keep following up until you’re finally heard. You may have to resort to sending emails titled: “RESPONSE REQUIRED” in all caps in the subject line.
You’ll have to make explicit time-bound requests for the support you need.
2) Step up and fill the leadership void. You’ll have to keep your boss in the loop but will have to take the initiative in order to move forward. Start saying things like, “I’m moving ahead with this on Monday unless I hear back from you before Friday at 4:30pm.”
Now, in some cases, some boss’ are able to let others “take the reins” and give over some control of the company to let others who are better suited lead at least certain aspects of it.
That said, most don’t and choose instead to turn on those trying to help by providing leadership as they feel threatened.
Beware: a company without solid leadership is like a rudderless ship that will get tossed to and fro on the seas of business.
They might be able to get through it when it’s smooth sailing, but once caught in a storm the boss won’t be able to navigate the business through it.
With leadership, some are natural born leaders and others have to work on it.
If leadership doesn’t come naturally to a boss, he/she will have to work on developing the skills necessary to become an effective leader.
In order to actually do this, the boss will have to have some level of ambition, self-awareness and desire to change and improve.
The likeliness of this happening depends on the type of person the boss is as an individual.
Generally speaking, if the boss has already shown a lack of leadership it’s often safe to assume that they will not change and will continue to do what they’ve always done.
Ultimately without good leadership a company is doomed to failure. In this day and age with ever increasing levels of competition, a company without competent leadership will flounder about aimlessly.
They will see profit margins erode, good staff leave and the competition will snatch up their customers.
At best, a company with bad leadership can only hope to survive in mediocrity. And the only chance of them surviving at all is if there are high barriers to entry for the business or the company has a unique and hard to replicate competitive advantage.
But as the leaderless company continues to stagnate, it gives their competitors time to figure out ways to come up with competitive advantages of their own that can combat or outdo what the leaderless company has to offer.
Meanwhile, I’ll be pumping out more of these articles for a while so be sure to check back.
Between now and then, I wish you all the success in the world.
Your Minister of Capitalism,