How To Lead When Your Boss Can't

leadership Nov 10, 2023

#LeadandLift | Episode 96 | Chabidaye Jaglal Ramnath

Not all bosses or managers are good leaders. In fact, a lot of them don’t prioritize their own growth in the skill of leadership. This is why oftentimes, a crisis happens and the team suffers because of a lack of good leadership. What can you, as someone who doesn’t have official authority over your team, do in order to help resolve the issues?

“When leaders don’t lead, there is no vision, and there is no clarity in that team. No one takes ownership to guide the team. Conflict increases because their roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined.”

When this happens, productivity drops in the team, projects take longer to deliver, the team gets burnt out, and ultimately, people will start leaving. The only way you can steer the ship away from disaster is to step up.

“Leadership - all you need is influence. You don’t need a title. You can lead from exactly where you are.”

Start with self-leadership

In order for you to effectively step up, you have to start by leading yourself. Make better choices by thinking how a leader does and develop a better attitude. When you are in a bad situation or bad environment, you can either become influenced by the environment or choose to influence the environment by choosing to be different.

Choose to be different. Lead yourself. When you are able to lead yourself well, you can gain credibility with your boss. Not only that, your team members will also see how they can count on you to get things done. Both your boss and your team members will see that you are reliable.

The first thing you need to keep in mind in order to be a good self-leader is to manage your emotions. Acknowledge the situation you are in and predict the emotions that may come up so that you can behave and speak consciously. In a crisis, things can get a little bit heated - yelling or throwing a tantrum will ruin the team’s morale, cause tears in relationships, and make you look bad.

Pay attention to your emotions. When you feel triggered or upset, take a breath and assess the emotion. Even if your boss is not competent or reasonable, you still need to take the high road and show them that you are commendable and that you are in control of your own emotions.

Have good time management

The second thing that you can practice in order for you to be a good leader is to manage your time. If your boss is not a good leader, chances are, they would be very unorganized and if that’s true then work piles up on their desk and they only act at the last minute.

When the boss gets called out for their inefficiency by their boss, they will surely make promises that someone would have to keep in order to reach their deadlines. Chances are, that “someone” will be you.

If your boss is not a good leader, expect that the tasks will get handed to you at the last minute. It is unfair, and it is only natural for someone to complain - however, complaining and arguing will not solve anything.

The best way to move forward is to show up and handle it the best way that you can with all the resources that you have. While you try your best to successfully complete your task, keep your boss updated on the challenges that you encounter. Keep in mind that even if they are a bad boss, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a conscience. They set you up with last-minute work, but you should still make them look good.

Manage your priorities and be proactive

Third, manage your priorities. When the team's in chaos because there's no direction and nobody knows what's going on, it's hard to know what you're responsible for. Make sure that you take time to check in with your boss when they assign you either new things or last minute things. Let them know the priority because you know they're not going to set it for you - chances are that they don't even know what you're working on.

Make sure to remind your boss of the tasks that they’ve given you and how you are prioritizing them. Update them on what you’re going to focus on and get their agreement. If you do this, they’re going to look at you and wonder, “Wow, how does this person keep it all together?” Take ownership of your work and be proactive.

One example of how you can be proactive is to check in on your peers. Remember that your peers are also struggling. If you finish your tasks and you find yourself with some free time, don’t wait around for your boss to assign work to you. If you are available, go ask somebody how you can help them.

The high-performance secret of successful people

Fourth, manage your energy. A bad environment tends to become energy-draining. You need to be aware of this and put measures in place to maintain your energy. As a high-performance coach, I teach my clients the habit of energy. Managing one’s energy is one of the success habits of the world’s best. Since they have better control of their energy, they can manage it so that they can be more productive.

Keep in mind that if you show up with high energy, you can positively impact an entire meeting room. Eventually people will start gravitating towards you, they will appreciate your presence since they will feel like being around you is like a breath of fresh air. Think about it, nobody wants to waste their time listening to and being around a person who’s always complaining and spewing on about problems.

A negative person, just like a negative situation, is a huge drain on your energy. You don’t want to have that effect on other people.

“Be that difference maker, be positive, and manage your energy in that space. Mastering your energy will enable you to get more done in less time. And that's a productivity secret that most people don't know.”

Clearing your open tabs of thought

Fifth, manage your thinking. Do you take the time to think? This question may seem simple, but to reframe it in a clearer way, here’s a better question: how many open tabs do you have in your mind?

As an example, as I sat recording a podcast for this episode, I had a flight. I needed to do my check-in, book a taxi to the airport, confirm my reservation with the hotel, pay some bills, make dinner, and check up on my kids in their activities.

I have a lot of things going on, but I don’t keep them all in my head actively taking space in my mind. I wrote those things down so that they can be addressed and so that some of them can be delegated. Get those things out of your head so that you have time to think.

If all of us took more time to think, we would waste less time with agenda-less meetings at work. People waste so much time running back-to-back meetings with no goals and no agendas. Nothing gets done. No problem gets solved, because there’s no clarity on what problems even need solving.

Sometimes people don’t want to think, they just want someone to tell them what to do so that they don’t have to take ownership or responsibility. Don’t be that kind of person. Put on your thinking cap and bring your best self to the job.

Keep a notebook with you. As things come up during the day, write them down so that you can let those thoughts go. Keep your head clear and make some room in your mind.

Think before you speak

The last thought that I want to share with you is for you to manage your words. Before you open your mouth, think. Don’t spout empty and meaningless things. Take a pause, take a minute or two, and think about what message you want to convey so that when you open your mouth to speak, you’ll be able to say it very succinctly.

Don’t just say words the very second that the thought hits your head. Be mindful of what you say. Remember that when you're spewing random thoughts that come in your brain without thinking about it, you're wasting other people's time because they're sitting there listening to you ramble.

Also, stop making excuses. It is okay to be honest about certain parts of what happened as an explanation, but don’t waste people’s time with a lengthy story of why you weren’t able to get something done at the right time. Most people have an automatic filter for excuses. As soon as that filter gets triggered - they won’t even hear what you’re talking about.

Instead, what you can do is take ownership and give people a date on when you can come back to them about the issue. If you say you’re going to do something, get it done. When you don’t do it, it’s going to impact the rest of the team and it makes your boss look bad.

“The boss knows they're in a tough situation and they need help. They may not ask for help, but they know they need help. When you lead yourself, you're going to quickly shine and stand out.”

Good leadership is a ray of sunshine

When you lead yourself successfully, chances are that your boss is going to give you more stuff to do. This may feel unfair, but remember that they are only doing this because they believe that they can count on you to get it done.

It’s better for your boss to believe that you are reliable rather than for them to think that if they give you a task, you’re going to drop the ball. It’s not always the case, but your boss if your boss is reporting to someone else, they will most likely be letting the boss know that you are stepping up.

Don’t add to your boss’s issues. If they are struggling, then take ownership. Deliver your work and stand out from the rest of the team. Step up, lead yourself, and you will gain credibility and you will gain the trust of your colleagues.

“Remember, good leadership is like a ray of sunshine, and it gets noticed the most after a rainy day. Let your results pave the way for your success.”

Gift For YOU!

Do you feel you’re being as productive, influential and successful as you want to?

Are you struggling to stay focused, to get ahead, or to better influence your team or customers?

Have you reached a plateau in your progress and struggled to breakthrough to the next level of joy, power and achievement? I can help!

Sign up now for a gift of 60 minutes of High Performance Coaching where we cover the six principles of high performance you can use to better master your body, mind and ability to be more productive and persuasive.

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