5 Rules for Lousy Leadership
By Mark Oristano
Bad leaders have something over the good ones – much better job security. Why? It’s simple. They run off anyone who is a threat to them before any damage can be done.
Bad leadership is an art form. It’s not easy to make yourself into the kind of leader nobody wants to follow. And because this underrated art form and the job security that goes with it are seemingly in great demand, here are five rules for lousy leadership.
- What’s right is what I say is right. Making this statement is a simple way to let everyone know there is only one person at the top, and that person is you. Your genius, your organizational skills, your foresight and intelligence will take you to new heights despite your team’s ineptitude. From the start you simply tell them, “It’s carved in stone: I speak, you agree.” It’s amazing how effective a weapon this can be in your lousy leadership arsenal. Have you ever seen a TV show about Buckingham Palace and noticed how the help stops and bows their head when a royal walks by? Well, that’s how your people will be whenever you walk down the hall. Or better yet, whenever you burst into a room and yell, “Who’s working hard today?” Just the sort of thing to make the little hairs on the back of their insecure little necks stand on end.
- Keep that great plan you made to yourself. Somewhere deep in your desk is the master plan you drew up for the company. It’s probably a good plan. Take the company forward, get everyone on the same page. But it involves a true terror for a lousy leader. To implement the plan, one department must know what another department is doing. And you can’t have that. So when you are asked about the plan you say, “Yeah, we have a plan. What great business doesn’t? But if I want you to know what’s going on in another department, I’ll tell you what’s going on in another department.” Quick about face and back to your private dining room.
- It’s not a lie if you believe it. Your people know you to be a person of impeccable honor. They must trust you because, to a large degree, you never have any interaction with them, so they must believe you are doing the top job brilliantly. On those rare and unfortunate occasions when you find yourself forced to mingle – at a staff meeting, at the rare awards handouts, or, heaven forbid, on pizza Friday – there is a simple way to let everybody know that everything is alright. When called on to speak, just take the mic, fake that sincere look, and say, “People – one thing is always true. You know I would never lie to my family!” Look out over their faces and bask in the warmth of their admiration. Quick about face and back to your office, door closed as always.
- It’s really very simple. So many unknowing people think that leadership is a terribly difficult task to master. To get to that seven-figure salary must take years of climbing the ladder, finding a mentor, and so on. However, you know the truth is that even though others helped you (now and then), you made the climb on your own. There’s nobody to thank when they come to interview you for Forbes or Fortune. All the admiration is aimed at you because you did it your way. And now, at the top, you pass along this key piece of wisdom to your people: “I gave you your orders. Now carry them out.” Magic words that put you and your management style in sharp focus. And the great thing is, if you give orders that are lousy and they carry them out, then it’s their fault for doing a lousy job!
- Make sure everybody is scared of you. This last rule is so obvious, it’s almost shameful to list it. The greatest motivator of all – fear. If you can arrange the office so that the mere sight of you makes breath catch in your peoples’ throat, you’re on the way to becoming a lousy leader. Everything else is small potatoes next to this rule. Tell them that if they want a friend to get a dog. Nothing succeeds like fear.
Nobody sets out to be a lousy leader. Some people can’t help it because it stems from their personality. Some people fail because their training was woefully inadequate. Some can’t cut it because they are afraid of leading others. And some just think they’re a natural. They become General Patton 2.0 and want their people to feel the fear.
(Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work!)
Mark Oristano has distilled lessons he learned during 30 years as an NFL broadcaster into a concise course in leadership with principle. From his years in the front office of the original Dallas Cowboys he developed compelling yet easy-to-implement rules for solid leadership. For more information, visit https://markoristano.com.