Subordinates sometimes make it extremely difficult for their bosses to be good leaders. Executives who fail to understand the forces at play may find their careers in jeopardy.
It’s hard to pick up a major management magazine–and we’re not excluding this one–and not find several articles outlining in painful detail where a leader went wrong in a particular case. Implicitly or explicitly in these stories, the employees are treated as receptive individuals waiting only for the boss to offer a productive channel to their intrinsic energies. But when a boss stumbles, it may be as a direct result of actions taken by employees who have sabotaged their actions. To keep this from happening, leaders must:
1. Understand the situation they are walking into. Leaders need to know how they are likely to be perceived
and what their predecessor was like.
2. Invest early in subordinates. New bosses need to spend significant time one-on-one with employees
for three reasons: to understand them; to get to know them; and to establish a rapport.
3. Be mindful of their own behavior. New leaders often overestimate the extent to which their good
intentions and good character will shine through. Demonstrating one’s “authentic self ” does not
mean “being natural.” Rather, it requires managers to seize everyday opportunities to demonstrate
that they are trustworthy, supportive and fair.
4. Intervene early. New bosses need to take action if there is a problem. Letting things fester only postpones the inevitable.