Have you ever had a bad boss? Someone you had zero respect for, someone who you felt shouldn’t be in the job they were doing and you had no idea how they managed to get to that position in the first place? Where every day your view of them was re-enforced by some crazy decision or action?

If you have had someone like this, then I want you to picture them in your mind and think about what it was in your eyes that made them a ‘Bad Boss’.

Was it a lack of communication? Was it the way they spoke to you or to others? Was it inappropriate behaviour – perhaps bullying, harassment or being unfair to you? Could it have been more how you felt about them personally than as a boss, or could it have been how you felt about your job as a whole?

Now think about how you perform as a leader of your business or team and see if you can spot any of the things you recognise in your old bad boss, in you.

Holding up a mirror to your own leadership style is a great exercise.  Consider these four important areas to ensure you remain a truly effective leader:

  1. Ownership
  2. Discipline
  3. Relationship
  4. Knowledge


People get stressed when they feel they do not have control over something that they later get “zapped” for when it goes wrong. Ownership, giving a team or individuals responsibility, allows them the opportunity to do a good job and then get the recognition. It also allows them to be held accountable for their own work.

Ownership, therefore, increases motivation and productivity, but it is important to remember to give recognition for good work!  Ownership is not about abdication of responsibility though – don’t lose sight of the goals you have for that area of work just because you have empowered others to take ownership of it.


This is not about stamping your feet or throwing mugs around the office when things go wrong, but about ensuring your team knows what is expected of them, putting things in place to monitor activity and then holding them accountable to the standards you have set.

The One Minute Manager, an excellent book by Ken Blanchard et al, describes a process of leaving employees alone and then zapping them when something goes wrong. This leadership style causes resentment, upset and low productivity.

Instead, a much better approach is to set out the rules of the game to everyone, and then make sure your team follows them through regular interaction with them.  This method will not only ensure that discipline will be maintained, but your team will be more responsive to you as a leader and your business.


A toxic relationship between an employee and a leader will destroy productivity. As a leader, you do need to have a good working relationship with each member of your team.

There needs to be some hierarchy to this relationship – your subordinates need to know you are the leader and you will make the ultimate decision, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be strictly professional.

For example, I have seen some businesses operate where they are all friends, enjoy a great social life together and still run a successful business. There is a fine line here though because if you have to make a tough decision with an employee who is a friend, you risk losing the friend as well as the employee.

The norm here is to aim for a professional relationship, one that allows good communication, and that recognises that each member of your team is unique and brings different skill sets.

Feedback and communication is essential when you are leading a team – think of yourself as a coach and your team are your players.


In a bad leader, knowledge is a weapon for scoring points and justifying their position. A good leader shares their knowledge and empowers subordinates to rise up with that knowledge.

Recognising that each member of your team has their own strengths and weaknesses in this area and working with the strengths and on the weaknesses will help you be a more effective team.

Your business is a reflection of you and a little self-reflection goes a long way.

Most businesses reflect the person who built them – the successful businesses, the ones that survive and thrive, have owners who recognise that they need to adapt and grow with the business. The ones that struggle are the ones who don’t change as the business grows.

The opposite is true of businesses that are failing, disorganised and can’t seem to get it together. They might survive despite an ineffective leader but it’s unlikely.

Self-reflection, the ability to hold a mirror up to yourself and describing what you see in order to understand where you need to improve, is an important part of growing as a leader and business owner.

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