What Happens When We Expect Bad Leadership?

My three-year old daughter has a new favorite TV show called Storybots. It involves curious and cute little robots that answers kids' questions like "Why does night happen?" and "Why do I need to brush my teeth?" 

I love the show, too, except for one part: the little bots report back to a grumpy, green boss named Hap who is constantly hollering at everyone to hurry up and get the job done! His brow is permanently furled, his eyes narrowed, and he never seems to be satisfied. He's always doing 15 things at once.

What kind of expectations about the working world is this setting for my daughter?

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We take a lot of images like this for granted. From Bill Lumbergh in Office Space to Gordon Ramsey in Hell's Kitchen to Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, pop culture teaches us that bosses are uncompromising, dispassionate, narcissists who can demand whatever they want.

When faced with a tough boss, sometimes you can manage up to change your boss' behavior. But sometimes a boss can be downright abusive, and that is not okay

Until recently, I didn't realize that bosses could be categorized as abusive, but it's come up again and again with my clients. Something about it taking place in a professional setting blurs the line between bad behavior and maybe I just need to toughen up. 

Especially for mission-driven professionals, we will power through a lot in service to our teams and our organizations' work. Maybe if I just try harder, I can fix this dynamic, we think to ourselves. Meanwhile, we've tried every approach under the sun, it's been two years of misery, and we're still banging our heads against the wall.

Being mission-driven doesn't mean being a martyr. We deserve better.

I firmly believe that leaders must create space to do the inner work that will prepare—and sustain—them to create a working environment where their teams will flourish and meaningful work can take root.

Micheal Meade says, "People are continually surprised that those who rise to power tend to abuse it rather than to use it to enhance the freedom of others or the cause of justice or even just to produce genuine beauty. It is most common in this world for people to rise up to the top who have not done the inner work of transforming themselves into themselves."

I love that phrase: transforming themselves into themselves.  

What does it mean to you to transform into yourself?
How could it enhance your effectiveness as a leader?

Learn about 1:1 Strategic Career Coaching to develop your own brand of authentic, human leadership.