It’s no wonder that the movie Horrible Bosses is playing to full theaters all across America. Everyone has either had a terrible boss at some point in his or her career or they know someone who has been in this situation. Poor leadership is an epidemic that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
The problem of poor leadership isn’t just reserved for the private sector. In a recent survey by the Army Research Institute, 26 % of sergeants and staff sergeants and 23 % of lieutenants and captains surveyed planned to leave the Army after completing their current service obligations. Of those, 35 % of enlisted and 26 % of officers cited the quality of leadership at their duty stations as a reason for leaving. Among noncommissioned officers, leadership concerns were a greater motivation to quit than the relentless pace of deployments.
Here is how this is playing out in organizations around the world.
Employees are being placed in positions of authority based on seniority, rather than results. Sgt. Kevin Doyle, a two-tour veteran of Afghanistan recently wrote the following on the Army Times website. “Instead of promoting those who create results, we keep in dinosaurs that meet an easy standard and continue to slide under the radar.” The same thing happens in Corporate America, where seniority and internal politics often trumps employee performance and results.
People are promoted into management positions before they are ready. In an effort to save money, organizations are turning towards internal promotions or relying on inexperienced leaders to train new managers. The results can be disastrous if the promotion doesn’t come with training or coaching from a more senior person.
I recently learned of a situation where my 19 year old nephew is training the boss’s son to take on a newly created management role. Now don’t get me wrong. I love my nephew dearly, but at age 19, how much can he really know about management? My heart goes out to the son of the owner, who will be expected to fly high the moment he is set free in the organization. And then we wonder why most family businesses don’t make it to the third generation.
Lack of role models. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have a good boss then you are usually one of the lucky ones. Getting two or more of these is equivalent to winning the lottery.
We model our behavior on what we observe. If most of what we see is poor leadership then it’s unlikely we will be much better without an intervention.
It’s no secret that people leave their bosses. We also know that employee turnover has a direct impact on the bottom line of organizations. Many people believe that leadership is a trait we all possess. That may be true for some, but for others leadership is something that can be taught. Isn’t it time that we put our knowledge to good use to resolve this problem?
Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions and author of the new book, Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey). Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta’s monthly newsletter, HR Matters.
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