So, you want a mentor? A Leader? A Coach? Someone you aspire to be, to lead the way, to shine a light on the grey foggy path ahead? Instead, you got Greg. In your words, he is “an egotistical, unaware idiot” that is spoken about with more disdain than you knew possible and, to make it worse, you have to answer to him.

Good. Having a weak leader as a boss is a blessing.

To show this simply, let’s break down some of the relatively universal characteristics of a “good” leader. #1 Humility.

Ego. Oh ego…we all have one and, when someone can’t see theirs, it is undeniable. Ego is just insecurity showing itself; let them be arrogant or let them own all the wins—the people involved know who really brings the value to a given situation. Long term, this is all you need. Be Humble. Be Patient and continuing bringing value.

Problem Solving. So they can’t figure out how to tie their shoe, let alone solve a client’s problem? Great! Offer up your ideas as potential options for him or her to implement. This gives you the opportunity to test your theories; use it, and I bet you are wrong more often than you think. Capitalize on the opportunity to be wrong and not have the full weight land on your head. This is invaluable almost risk free experience.

Trust. The best part about humans is we are relatively consistent, so what you can trust them to be is untrustworthy. This means keeping them at arm’s length and knowing that if the time comes, yes, they will kick you in front of the boss…I mean bus. Good. You know it is coming, so make moves to mitigate the fallout. It sucks to work with people you don’t trust, but easy to mitigate the potential negative fallout. Shut your mouth, keep your distance.

Vision. They can’t figure out what to have for lunch, which means the idea of setting quarterly goals also gives them panic attacks. Fan-bloody-tastic. You can start to set the path you feel your team or company should walk down. However, as you trudge at the front of the marching party, cutting down the weeds for your blind boss to follow, you can lead them in the direction you want to go.

Emotional Intelligence—which encompasses so much: positivity; communication; empathy; and awareness. I place these all in one category, as dealing with people is business and so is leading. When you have a boss that is more robot than human, it is the perfect opportunity to become the rock within your team, the unwavering support, and the ear to hear the problems and offer solutions. This will place you at a critical intersection and make you a pillar for your team. Note, gossiping is not doing this—you must actually offer solutions otherwise you are just worsening the situation.

Sensation work ethic. Ooo… You got a Lazy one? Oh, nothing better; you got especially lucky here. This is when you get to step up, take as much as humanly possible off of their plate and expect nothing in return—not even an “’atta boy.” Why? Two reasons. First, you get to learn their role, which prepares you for future promotions; this is valuable whether you see it now or not. Second, they will become to rely on you—either bringing you with them when they get promoted or giving them the confidence that you can take over when they move on.

Ownership. So when shit rolls down the hill, everything is your fault? Good. The people above you will know it is their (the leaders) fault, and not yours; the buck stops with the leader, despite what people may have you think. For them to pass the buck onto you only destroys their credibility within the organization…so own it.

Yes, there are more traits that we would love to have in our leaders; however, the list above nails a few main traits. It is in their shortcomings that you can build a name and career for yourself, particularly within your company or team.

The key thing isn’t what to do if you cannot trust your boss or how to help clients when you have no guidance from above, it is your mentality towards your boss that needs to change. Like traffic, they aren’t going anywhere; they will be a constant, at least for your immediate future.

This means whining, complaining, or not doing your job well is the same as blaming traffic for your shitty results; you are the only one that will lose. Take ownership of the situation and use their shortcomings as opportunities to learn and shine.

It is in this shift that you will build the habit that seeks opportunity and uses every hurdle as a springboard—which will only propel your career. While others are feeling sorry for themselves, you are continuing to move forward. While others are looking for other jobs, you are moving up the ladder.

Having Richard Branson as a boss would be fantastic; for the rest of us dealing with mere mortals, see it as an opportunity and not a hindrance. A game, not a death sentence. It is in doing this that you can solidify your own habits for growth. Or, at the very least learn everything NOT to do when your time comes.

Two final notes:

  1. A word of warning: the trick to doing all of this, in being the best team member and best subordinate they have ever had, is to not outdo your boss. Ever. This is the sticky bit and the bit we all struggle with so much, as our own ego’s need feeding. If you are dealing with a self-righteous, egotistical arse, you can be confident that a target will be squarely on your back if you boast about the workload you have or how you did better than them. Be humble and play the long game.
  2. No one has ever said you have to learn from the people you work directly for. Go external: read books; pay coaches; use LinkedIn and seek advice; or offer yourself up to projects in other departments, so you can see how they their work. People are great,  they will and want to help.

You can learn from everyone, especially a bad boss.

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