Bad Leadership: The Peter Principle Personified

We received a question a while back asking about how to deal with someone promoted into a manager role who clearly did not deserve it. Someone who is not leadership material can reek havoc on an organization if improperly promoted. How should a follower deal with such a person? Should they suck up to them, tolerate them, leave them? What should they do?  Here is our response…   Certainly being promoted into a manager position does not make you a leader in any sense of the word. I have often been frustrated by the lack of process by which many achieve a manager role. There certainly should be a leadership experience requirement to becoming a manager as often the roles are intertwined. The situation you painted has no easy answers. To suck up to that person would require a significant lack of integrity making that strategy frankly stupid and self destructive. Of course there are many possible variables that might lead to a situation where people do not work well together; gender, race, education, intelligence, biases and many other forces can play a role here. We have to be careful to consider the actual situation. Here is some general guidance which can be considered.  I have often contemplated how to help a poor leader develop if they are incompetent or at least insecure. There are precious few ways to achieve this frankly.  The best approach I have found that works in some instances is to build a trust based profesional relationship with the person with a long term aim of providing them feedback to help them grow. A trust based professional relationship with someone like you describe will not be easy. One has to overlook many of the behaviors that frustrate and irritate in order to do so. The good news is that if they are your manager you are required to work for them in the first place so start there. Talk to them about what their expectations of you are. Help them to define them if they do not have a clue (they may not if they are as incompetent as you suggest). Meet their expectations to the absolute best of your ability. As you do so they will undoubtedly begin to count on you. If you are asked to accomplish more than what is reasonable, ask their help in determining priorities for your work.    After doing this for some time and noticing their behavior toward you beginning to change, begin to offer your opinion on relatively small issues within their area of responsibility. If they are receptive to your opinion slowly continue to offer them more advice (be very slow about this) If they bristle at your opinion step back and continue to do your job to the best of your ability. Try again at a later date. As the relationship grows there will be opportunities to provide them feedback. If there are not then there is a different decisions to be made.   Am I patient and committed enough to continue?   Is this position where I want to be?  As I said there is no easy answer here    best of luck Lead well  

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