How to deal with a poor leader

How to Deal with a Poor Leader

I’ve served with some remarkable leaders in several organizations – and I’ve served with some not-so-remarkable leaders. You can read about some of them here. And since I’m passionate about intentional growth, I’m easily frustrated by unproductive leadership and the resulting wasted potential within organizations.

To be totally transparent, I’ve made many mistakes in leadership. There were numerous times that my teams endured countless mistakes along my leadership journey. My teams have been more than patient, even gracious, as I have grown to lead more effectively.

So, whether you’ve been a member of one of my teams or you find yourself trapped in this unfortunate situation, here are 4 ways to deal with a bad leader:

1. Know your calling

This is non-negotiable! If you only get one – get this one. Know your calling and live it with abandon every moment of every day. There is no substitute for knowing what you were made to do and doing it. It’s the only way you can continue to perform at a high level when faced with huge challenges.

No amount of money, no job title, no employment perk, no office environment will motivate you more in tough times than doing what you love, and loving what you do. And when you’re unquestionably living out your calling, no bad leader can derail you either.

2. Surround yourself with positive, talented people

Positive, talented people appreciate your leadership and influence in their lives. I have a shelf in my office that is filled with encouraging notes and simple gifts from team members and supporters over the years. Every couple of months I’ll grab a handful of the notes and read through them. It’s not long before I’m reminded why I do what I do – It’s all for these great people who have embraced their work with passion and are growing personally and professionally. Critics will drain every ounce of creative energy out of you – leave them alone and pour your life into positive, growing people.

3. Never criticize the leader

And don’t complain about the situation – to your team or anyone else. This is difficult one to live out – a huge challenge for most of us. But criticism and complaints usually derail any hope of progress in the relationship – and they often come back around to bite you. Criticizing the leader never helps!

4. Pray for them

You and I both know that prayer changes things – we’ve all seen the benefits or prayer. But simply praying is not enough – as with most things in life, we must get very specific to get the results we desire. In fact, if we’re not getting results in a particular area, it’s probably because we have not been specific enough.

Specificity fosters accountability – self-accountability. And accountability produces results. So get real specific with your prayer! You may just get the results you never thought possible.

Here’s how I got real specific with my prayer for struggling leaders (and other strained relationships, too) – I began to pray for them with genuine gratitude. I focused on things that I appreciate about them. Sure, this was difficult at first – but, let’s be honest, nearly everyone has some characteristic for which we can be grateful.

Focus on praying for and working together in the areas where you align with the leader. Leave the other areas alone for now – ignore them! When you get some momentum in your relationship, it will be easier to tackle the more challenging areas.

When I began approaching relationships with toxic leaders with this kind of intentionality, my perspective, energy, focus, and motivation improved dramatically.

So what’s your advice for dealing with poor leaders?

Please note: We reserve the right to remove comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Angry Angie

    Very insightful

    • Michael Nichols

      Thanks Angie! Enjoy your day!

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  • Kimunya Mugo

    Michael, there are some that one may have no option but to part company. It may be that we are afraid of the disruption this causes. However, this may be the launchpad to growth that is needed for both parties. Especially when one responds to their true calling.

    Here’s to greatness in 2014 :)

    • Michael Nichols

      Great points! Thanks for sharing!

  • chadbrooks

    I have learned so much about this over the last few months. I echo #4 the most. Praying for them has caused more forward motion than anything else I have done.

    • Michael Nichols

      Thanks for sharing Chad! It is amazing how prayer can do that.

  • Javier Bustamante

    I totally needed to read this. Thank you.

    • Michael Nichols

      Great to hear, Javier. I appreciate the encouraging note.

  • WebReadyChurch

    I stand convicted. Thanks for a great post that, as hard as it is, I must take to heart.

    • Michael Nichols

      I’m glad this post helped you. Thanks for the comment!

  • David

    I just want to say thanks for mentioning to pray for the person with specificity.

    • Michael Nichols

      Thanks David! I had the opportunity to share that principle with a colleague today also. It works!