Lessons on Leadership: Surviving a Bad Boss

How a poor leadership style in my supervisor sparked my desire to search for a new job

I sought new opportunities and challenges, but more importantly, I sought new mentors and leadership that could propel me on my career, rather than hold me back.

You know what I’m referring to by “mentors” and “leadership,” right? My supervisor, y’all. That’s what I mean.

I did not agree with his leadership style and did not feel comfortable as an employee working below him.

I’ll be honest, I did have my moments of a power struggle where I wanted to preserve my control, autonomy, and individualism. So, some disputes were of my own making.

Unfortunately, I felt my supervisors’ style was rigid. He was close-minded to new ideas and he didn’t consider any perspective other than his own.

I did not respond well to his authoritarian demeanor. My creativity felt confined, all in the name of “because he said so;” my sense of empowerment was nonexistent as his approach was to hand me a to-do list for the day; and the biggest disconnect that I felt was the relationship-building component that I feel should be at the foundation of every type of relationship.

You’re not fit to be a leader if you don’t care about the person/people that you’re leading.

As you can see I care deeply about this matter, and I do not take lightly what the role of a leader should be.

I believe I need to be a good follower, in order to be a good leader

Nonetheless, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, as he’s young and learning. After all, we are all human.

However, as a fervent aspiring leader, I hold onto the belief that in order to be a good leader, I need to be a good follower.

So, I searched for an open-minded, experienced leader; one who respected ideas and worldviews that were different from their own.

I felt ready to leave once I had worked through my inner feelings of petty power-struggles and the internal conflicts that I was dealing with as a result.

I had to accept the situation. And I, too, had to be open-minded to other worldviews. Even though I didn’t agree with it, it was his style. And harboring negative feelings towards it was unproductive.

But it would also be unproductive for me to stay in a situation that I felt was not in alignment with who I understood myself to be and what I preferred to experience.

Thus began my job hunt. So, I prayed for, had faith for, and already started giving thanks for a job that was perfect for me.


Leaders: with great power, comes great responsibility

Annoyingly, on the list of reasons why people want to leave their job, “not liking their supervisor” is pretty up there.

The quality of leadership affects employees sense of enjoyment at work.

That’s why I know that my relationship with my supervisor is THE most important thing next to the work that I’ll be doing.

I’ll be miserable for 2/3’s of the amount of time that I get each day if my sense of enjoyment at work is unfulfilled.  

One of the best ways for employees to enjoy their work is by them having the ability to sharpen their innate gifts, talents, and skills.

Strong leaders know that they should encourage employees in their strengths.

By doing so, not only will employees enjoy their work, but they will joyfully have more value to offer.

It’s a win/win situation.

I also know that my relationship with my supervisor can make or break my ability to have opportunities for advancement and promotion down the line.

This one right here is what made me RUN for the door. My supervisor marked my yearly evaluation as unsatisfactory. I felt this was more a reflection of the relationship dynamic than it was a reflection of my work ethic.

Can’t say I didn’t see this one coming.

But, was I about to stick around for a year of biting my tongue under the instruction of poor leadership?

I think not.

Great leadership also makes a positive impact on our world by fostering trust, creativity, and open-mindedness.

Leadership affects the organization internally, and also externally towards the people and community that the organization serves.

Let’s look at an example of former CEO of Cosco, Jim Sinegal, a man who has demonstrated exceptional leadership style.

He focuses on employees by taking great care of them through great pay, benefits and healthcare, and no layoffs during times of recession.

He’s making sure his employees are paid well, meanwhile, his salary was $350,000; which is super low for CEO’s.

For a retail job, you can probably imagine that employees felt appreciated. This was also reflected in the 12% turnover rates (also very low for retail).

He understood that happy employees mean happy customers.

Now, Jim Sinegal created a space of trust within his organization while creatively setting themselves apart from their competition by prioritizing the happiness of his employees. He was also open-minded to employees and customers overall experience.

But what left an even bigger impact was how his overall leadership style affected our world.

Think about all the CEO’s that are abusing their power, and are making an insane amount of money while employees are making so little. Yes, their hard work is worthy of a fat pay; I’m not anti-money nor anti-power. But those CEO’s that are investing money into their employees satisfaction, are literally shifting the paradigm of what “great” leadership means.

They are perpetuating reasons for us to trust those in power – and that’s a rarity these days. Talk about faith in humanity restored, anyone?

That’s a testament to both the power of leaders and their responsibility.

How supervisors can increase their influence

Leading by example

Leading by example is the perfect way for them to earn trust and respect.

I don’t believe anyone enjoys having expectations being placed on them without that same level of expectation being placed on everyone else.

It isn’t fair, nor is it the best practice of being a good leader.

But you know what is? Honesty. Efficiency. Transparency.

By modeling the behavior, they are also communicating expectations without them having to speak a word. Their actions are speaking loud enough.

So leaders and aspiring leaders – to avoid confusion and misunderstandings, (and to avoid your employees side-eyeing you because your words and actions are inconsistent) model the behavior you want to see in them.

Trusting their subordinates to do their job

Leaders can increase their level of influence by empowering their employees to do their job.

Playing the role of a to-do-list-delegate ONLY is not empowering.

Asking for input during the decision making, looping your team in for basic problem solving, and creating an inclusive space where everyone’s ideas are welcomed… yeah, that’s what I call empowering.

And that demonstrates trust.

(I don’t know about you, but if I sense a “I don’t trust you vibe,” I’ll find it very hard to trust you, too.)

Without trust at the foundation of any relationship, it is sure to fail.

Viewing their role as one of a mentor

A supervisor becomes a supervisor because of their experience. They’ve been involved with the company longer, or they’ve been in the industry longer, or they’ve acquired enough education to know more than whoever they are a supervisor to. Yay or nay?

That said, a supervisor can increase his level of influence by mentoring their subordinates.

By always putting themselves in their shoes and asking how they can support them in their job.

By making relationship-building be at the center of their relationship.

By offering compliments before criticism.

By inspiring a shared vision, where the two are headed in the same direction, towards a win/win situation.

Being self-aware and sensitive to historical and even current misuse of “power-dynamics”

We live in a world influenced by misuse of power.

Sensitivity to this is important. Using power carelessly, without being self-aware, conscious, and understanding of the way others are impacted by it, is unwise.

If cultural, social, and historical awareness of “power-dynamics” are not understood, as a supervisor, they can unconsciously allow the power to get to their head, having an air of oppressiveness in their demeanor (whether they mean to or not).

On the other hand, if they are aware, they can come across as extremely understanding, personable, and respectful (thus getting that respect back).

My experience soul searching my way through my “authority issues”

I’ve come to appreciate, enjoy, and welcome change in my life. With every change that has occurred, it usually does so at the beautiful cost of soul searching; a price that I am more than willing to pay.

I had to soul search my way through my authority issues and ended up learning a lot about myself in the process, including my passion for leadership.

Lessons learned:

  1. Sometimes I need to look at the bigger picture and not emotionally invest myself in the perceived failings of others. We’re all growing at our own pace. And we all have our own ever-evolving world view.
  2. While at the moment, things appear to be wack and dis-empowering, that doesn’t mean things will always be. And I can always chose make the most out of all my circumstances by soaking up all the lessons that it has to teach me (thus allowing it to empower me!)

[EXTENSION] New job, new me

Now, can we talk about how the universe delivered on exactly what I needed, at exactly the right time?

My new manager was hitting all the right spots…

He expressed understanding of the fact that we (employees) have lives, and as such, “shit happens” – for lack of a better word. During our interview, he even gave an example about how we was willing to be flexible with his previous assistant, because she was a single mom (this was before I told him that, I too, am a single mom.)

He expressed his style of respecting other people’s ideas and being open-minded to changing existing systems, so long as they proved to be effective and efficient. Like, HELLO?

He also expressed that he did not believe in creating an environment where his word was the last one and no one else is allowed to disagree on how things should be done.

It’s almost as though the universe was saying: “YOUR WISH IS MY COMMAND.

That’s what happens when you pray for, have faith for, and already give thanks for something to change *out there*, while making the necessary changes *in here* to make it happen ;).

You know what else I prayed for, had faith for, and already gave thanks for before receiving it? My first apartment. Read to learn how I soul searched my way through psychological blocks that held me back from making necessary changes in me and my son’s life: Moving Out The Nest As A Millennial And Single Mom

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *