It has been said that people don’t leave companies, they leave people. When an employee chooses to leave an organization it is more likely because they have reached a level of dissatisfaction in a relationship with their immediate supervisor. This problem is more pervasive than employers like to admit. When I asked leaders to tell me how the problem of poor managers affects their workplace culture, they usually responded with a shrug and said that it really wasn’t a problem. Yes, they had turnover; but the reasons for employees leaving weren’t typically about poor superiors.
Well, the employees may have a different opinion.
One in two employees have left a company to get away from a superior that was overbearing, toxic or simply a bully. Gallup: Business Journal, 7/7/16
A bad manager is bad for business. Their presence and posturing does not create an environment that welcomes growth or encourages employee engagement. Their behavior generates quite the opposite.
Employees are leaving in order to improve their own well being; or they are staying in the workplace and doing only what they have to do in order to get by (low engagement). Those who do leave, do not do so hastily. Most make an effort to communicate better, seek to resolve differences and after many failed attempts to meet unrealistic expectations, they quit. The truth is they quit the relationship long before they quit the job.
The confusing part of the equation is that companies are in the habit of promoting ineffective managers to a leadership role and not holding them accountable for the conflicts that lead to turnover. But then again, maybe that is because their work objectives are being met and the bad manager is good at appearing to be in control.
Appearances could be the root of the problem. A bad manager might not be good at working with their employees, but can be very good at appearing to be confident. They can be well versed in saying the right things, achieve measurable objectives in a timely way and hold their own in a meeting with upper management. But the perceived confidence is more of a cover up for the inadequacies that truly exist. We are used to saying you can’t judge a book buy its cover. That is true in these management situations – you can’t judge a bad manager by their cover.
Yet, when you ask the employees to describe the situation, they express a much different perspective. They don’t experience a confident leader. They experience what they describe as an arrogant leader. It is that arrogance and controlling behavior that becomes the catalyst for the ongoing conflict.
Employee engagement is at critical stages in many companies. It is the managers that set the tone for employee involvement and satisfaction. The difference between a truly confident leader and the one who is arrogant makes all the difference in the workplace culture.
Employees (and leaders) that I have interviewed, tell me that the issue of leadership arrogance is one of their top daily concerns. The employees want to be engaged and successful. They want to be more involved. But the risks of getting on the bad side of a bad superior are too great. Here are some of their perspectives about arrogant leaders:
“Arrogant leaders end up creating workplaces where there is no true ownership or accountability within our team. Their posturing causes most of us to operate in fear.”
“I have ideas and would like a new challenge, but I’m afraid of what might happen in the event that something does not measure up to the leaders expectation. If I make a mistake or fail, I become the scapegoat or I’ll be emotionally demoted while the leader aggressively takes over the problem, fixes it and doesn’t involve me in resolving the issue. I don’t get a chance to learn in the process.”
“Arrogant leaders lead by fear which causes paralysis.”
Here are some the employees perspectives about a confident leader:
“Confident leaders create space for us to go after and own our challenges.”
“When I work under the authority of a confident leader, I end up working passionately and with more enthusiasm because I’ve been given authority to determine the course of my efforts and approach to the work.”
“Confident leaders lead in the realms of possibility and courage, which motivates me to take action and encourages momentum on our team.”
According to the Gallup study, 67% of employees who work with a leader that focuses on their strengths and encourages professional development are more engaged. They are more confident as employees. It takes a confident leader to create and sustain that kind of environment.
With that in mind, I asked people to describe the qualities or behaviors of a confident leader. The results of those conversations naturally brought about a comparison to leaders who failed to inspire or engage.
Here is a comparison list for you to consider. As you notice the difference, I hope you will use this list as a tool to evaluate your own effectiveness as a leader within your organization.
The typical differences between an Arrogant Leader and a Confident Leader
ARROGANT LEADER CONFIDENT LEADER
Its all about their reputation Its all about the relationships
Driven by the protocol (what) Directed by the purpose (why)
Talks “At” others Talks “with” others
Always right Always learning
Demanding and controlling Determined and empowering
Finds fault in others Finds favor and potential in others
If generous, strings are attached Generous within reason
Talks more than listens Listens completely, then talks
Pushes for compliance to their decisions Collaborates for shared decisions
Brags of their successes Quietly succeeds
Limits opportunity for others Promotes growth
Burns bridges without remorse Builds bridges for reconciliation
Self-promoting Promotes others
Dismissive and harsh with feedback Honest in a gracious manner
Prefers co-dependent followers Creates culture of independence/interdependence
This article and the comparison list was written by Steven Iwersen, CSP.