Learning from the Bad Examples

Sometimes we learn our best lessons from the bad examples we see around us.  It can teach us compassion and motivate us to not only learn from the tough situations but make an effort to change those situations for others.

A few years ago, I moved into my first leadership role and my immediate supervisor was a classic example of everything not to do.  One of the first observations I made was that when employees would speak to her, she wouldn’t move her eyes from her computer screen.  Then they’d stop to wait for her to finish and she’d say, “No, go on, I’m listening.”  Sometimes, in her less cheerful moods, she would snap, “Do you want help or do you want me to finish this so you can get paid this week?”  The shrinking look of response was awful to see!

I had a supervisor right after her that had a different and yet equally bad take on leadership.  Many of us had to come in and start very early in the day, so by the time she walked in at 9:30 am, we were well into our days already.  She had the attitude of, “they should come and say good morning to me, I am the supervisor.”  I told her, “you should go to them individually and say good morning, you are their leader.”

Working under these two supervisors was a strain on my spirit.  I loved my job and I developed a sincere affection for my team.  But I would wake up each morning wondering what agonizing moments would await me that day.

I wouldn’t trade those experiences now, though.  I have learned good habits from each of them.  When one of my team needs me, I turn away from my computer, put my pen down, and give them my full attention.  I understand that my job here is not to be exalted but to serve my team, to help them succeed and to help them to realize their potential.  And sometimes that means humbling myself, and sometimes it means putting myself out, and sometimes it means taking the blame when something goes wrong.  But that is okay; it’s what I am here for.

I have worked under better leaders than these two examples, but truthfully, I learned just as much from their bad examples as I have from the good ones.  When we experience things that trouble us, we should find a way to correct it.  I hope I never make anyone feel the way those two supervisors made their employees feel because no other strengths I develop as a leader or manager could compensate for that.