What To Do If You're Following a Crappy Leader

Many years ago I had a good friend, Jordie, call me up. He shared with me that he wanted to grow and develop as a leader but felt stuck in being able to do so. His current boss wasn’t an effective leader and wasn’t someone Jordie wanted to emulate. To make matters worse, his leader didn’t invest well in Jordie’s development. Jordie had a choice to make. Would he let his life, career, and leadership be dictated by the subpar leader for whom he was working?

It seems self-evident, but it was worth saying to Jordie so I’ll say it again here: If you’re following an ineffective leader, don’t rely on that person to teach you how to lead.

We wouldn’t go to a bad mechanic to teach us how to repair a car so why would we allow leaders who don’t lead well dictate the leadership development we receive? Why would we think they would be able to teach us how to become effective leaders?

If you want to become something more than the leader you’re currently following, you’re going to need to go outside of that person to become a great leader. Outside could mean seeking out a leadership coach or mentor other than the leader you're following. Outside could mean books, podcasts, and other educational resources other than those recommended by your subpar leader. Outside could mean finding a new leader to follow altogether. Regardless of what ‘outside’ ends up being for you, it needs to be something more than what you’re going to get from someone who isn’t leading you well.

The Courage to Take Ownership = Maturity

The most critical step in all of this is having the courage to see and own the situation. See it for what it is and decide that you’re taking 100% responsibility for your own development. It isn’t your leader’s problem if he/she isn’t capable of developing you into a great leader, it’s yours.

Taking ownership for one’s own leadership development is a key differentiator between mature and immature leaders, regardless of age. Immature leaders leave their growth and development to the initiatives of others. Mature leaders don’t. Mature leaders take responsibility for their own leadership development.

Thankfully, Jordie had both the wisdom and courage to take full responsibility for his own development. He went outside his under-developed leader to get the education and development he needed. Today Jordie is the head of international sales for his company. Not only that, but he loves both his company and the work that he does. In making the decision that he did, Jordie didn’t merely become a better professional, he became a more mature person and leader. And now everyone around him – as well as Jordie himself -- are the benefactors.

Share Your Thoughts: Have you ever followed a poor leader who didn't invest well in your leadership development? What did you do to make sure your development wasn't held back? Tell us about it.We'd love to hear from you. Join the conversation by clicking here.

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