Fair-weather leadership

Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune of working with several leaders. While a majority of them were outstanding, a few were perfect examples of leaders I never wanted to become or work with.

One of these was what I call “fair-weather leaders.” There’s a high likelihood that you know someone like that in your current organisation (good luck, if that’s your boss) or the ones you’ve worked with them in the past. Common traits of these leaders include:

  1. Leading when convenient — they jump into “leading” mode when they’re fed up with self-promoting, gossiping, whining, complaining, catching up on emails, news or tweets, and want to see some action. There’s nothing wrong with the last bit, but fair-weather leaders default to micromanaging because they love control. The rest of the team bears the brunt of this sudden spurt of action as they’re now questioned on mundane things that don’t even matter. And boy, everyone wishes s/he goes back to what they were doing earlier.
  2. Half-assed accountability and ownership — fair-weather leaders love to raise their hands for every damn thing there is. But that’s all they do. When it comes to accountability and ownership, they will either delegate it to others or create situations that compel other responsible team members to take it off their plates. If the team screws up, it’s their fault. If the team does a fantastic job, the fair-weather leader will take all the credit. They’re only accountable for the wins, not the losses.
  3. Giving credit where it’s due is optional — these leaders suck at giving credit. And even if they do, it sounds forced and unauthentic. As if they’re doing others a favour by being modest. They will conveniently “forget” about the key players who were part of the project and happily take the credit since, “well, none of my team members was around during that global call.”
  4. Make everyone wonder what do they do — almost nobody’s clear about a fair-weather leader’s responsibilities. People might think they’re responsible for something (because they make it a point of telling everyone that they’re “in-charge”), but when they can see someone else is carrying out the responsibilities, they wonder “, if s/he’s not doing that, what does s/he actually do?” Eventually, they stop wondering because they don’t see a point in even considering the question.
  5. Get offended easily — you can’t direct these leaders as they will take offence and hold you in contempt. They will figure out a way to make your life difficult or, worse, cook up a strategy to throw you out of the company. The alternative is to say nothing and hope they’ll eventually have an insight or realisation, which sadly never happens.

If you know someone with the traits mentioned above, go ahead, share it with them. Ask if they know someone like this within their circle; believe me, they’ll tell you.

If you’re worried that you’ll get fired, don’t worry. 99.99% of fair-weather leaders don’t even know this post is about them! In their mind’s eye, they probably are the most extraordinary leader since Winston Churchill, but in reality, well, they don’t give a damn about reality.

P.S. I’m leaving the 0.001% to the chance that you might be one! And if you are, there’s still time to change. Do you have the courage, humility, and discipline to be a better leader? If yes, I can help.

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