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How not to lead anyone

Posted on July 13, 2015 in: Articles

Since Lent is a time of penance, I thought it a good time to approach the topic of Jesus-like Leadership by talking a bit about to be an ineffective leader. My inspiration comes from two places:

  • The 77 Habits of Highly Ineffective People, a hilarious but out-of-print parody of a wonderful book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
  • A blog by Gary Cokins called Rules for Assuring Poor Performance.

To get the flavor of The 77 Habits of Highly Ineffective People, of which you can find used copies on Amazon.com, let me share with you the first suggestion of authors Jim Becker, Andy Mayer and Barrie Maguire: "At least once a day, call your lawyer to chew the fat." An accompanying illustration shows the attorney marking down billable time.

I like Habit #17: "Increase office productivity by holding daily two-hour meetings on how to increase productivity." That makes about as much sense as Habit #18: "Rely on your teenager's good common sense about what time to be home at night."

Habit #19 points to a more common pitfall: "Help others communicate better by explaining what they mean." Habit #23 advises: "When you forget someone's name, just call them 'Bud.'" The accompanying illustration shows a priest greeting a woman religious. That advice is probably as helpful as Habit #31: "Cut your own hair."

My personal favorite is Habit #62: "For an anniversary gift, buy your spouse a membership at a weight-loss clinic."

Cokins takes a more serious approach with his tongue-in-cheek advice about how to be a poor leader. Among his suggestions:

  • Keep all employees and managers totally ignorant of the executive team's strategy.
  • Do what you can to see that people don't trust one another.
  • Discourage all debate or dissent.
  • Don't let anyone experiment with new technology that might better track and improve performance. (Cokins suggests leaders get the IT department to find and install software that detects any effort by anyone to use software to analyze performance.)
  • Don't hold anyone accountable, and don't allow anyone to develop goals or performance targets.
  • Do develop budgets, but make sure they are done six months in advance of the new budget year to allow the leader lots of time to keep sending them back with orders to reduce costs or increase revenue projections.
  • Squeeze suppliers every chance you get.

Cokins has more to say about what to do to become an ineffective leader, but you get the idea. Let me add a few of my own just to make sure genius, hard work, trust or collaboration don't have a chance to win the day. 

  • Never admit a mistake.
  • If it's obvious that you made a mistake, never apologize for it.
  • Know everything. Always speak first. If you must waste your valuable time listening, look for something else to distract you or let your gaze drift out the window.
  • No matter what happens, always give orders -- and demand that they be followed immediately "or heads will roll."
  • Don't praise anyone for anything, lest they get a big head and want a raise or start looking elsewhere for a better job.
  • Never celebrate anything. You don't want people to get complacent, and there is always a lot of work to do, so don't allow any distractions. If work was supposed to be fun, they would have called it "fun" instead of "work."
  • Always criticize. If there's no one who is absent or out of the room that you can disparage, go after your competitors, your spouse, your family -- and most especially your spouse's family. If you can't think of anything bad to say about them, just use the criticisms you repeat over and over again at home.

With this list of leadership tips, you are bound to fail. And when you do, be sure to blame someone else.

We'll be back next week in a more serious vein. Although if you think about it, this column is pretty serious in its own way.

Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute

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