Bad Bosses: Developing the Manager to Become the Leader


If you’ve ever watched the popular television sitcom, The Office, you may be able to recall the hilarious, yet “over the top” manager, Michael Scott played by actor, Steve Carrell. While I adored Steve Carrell’s character, I didn’t always love how the character handled his role as a manager.

Has your performance ever suffered because of a bad boss? Have you ever left a job because of a bad boss? According to Gallup’s State of the American Manager report, 1 in 2 people have left a job because of a poor manager and “organizations fail to choose the right talent for the manager job 82% of the time.” And, we all know, a great Subject Matter Expert (SME) does not necessarily mean a great leader.

The awful reality is that poor managers don’t become better managers by simply attending a day-long, or even week-long training. Yet, somehow, we love to send poor managers to training, as if they were a child going to the principal’s office for poor behavior. Instead, we should invest in succession planning, giving effective feedback and providing coaching, in addition to more traditional training methods like live, instructor-led training and e-Learning.

Talent development leaders are poised to help change this narrative, consider the following questions:

  • What programs has your organization put in place to prepare and develop high potentials to step into a management role?
  • What coaching is available to underperforming managers or simply managers who are interested in improving their skills?
  • And, most importantly, how is the manager demonstrating that they are putting their people first, and the task second?

If 2020 taught us anything at all, it’s that all of us must be resilient, empathetic, and courageous. In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says, “I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.”

Strong learning organizations recognize that leaders are needed at all levels, from the C-Suite executive to the middle manager, to the individual contributor. While leadership may look different at each level, it’s still imperative that we as talent development professionals place an emphasis on developing all levels of leadership through continuous learning versus event-based, training.

Now, more than ever, managers are being called upon to be leaders who activate and apply their emotional intelligence. Yet, in my 14-year career, I’ve seen less than a handful of managers value the person over the task. So, as talent development professionals, let’s change the narrative!


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