Why Learning from Bad Leadership Can Transform Your Work (And Your Life)

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Amy Bracht

Coach | Change Agent | Dream Manager

If you find yourself working for a bad leader, the future can seem bleak.

You dread going logging on in the morning.

You start to sweat when the boss comes by for “a chat”.

You feel trapped and uncomfortable.

No good can come of this, right? You are just stuck until your manager leaves or you leave.

You may think there is nothing for you to learn from bad leadership, other than how you do not want to lead in the future.

However, it is possible to learn from bad leadership. In fact, you can learn so much from bad leadership that you can transform your own work (and your life!). 

learning from bad leadership

But how can you turn this unbearable situation to something positive? 

Here are three action steps to take when you have a bad manager to make the most of the situation. 

1. Get curious.

Learning from bad leadership requires out-of-the-box thinking.

One way you can do that is to get curious.

Instead of engaging with your manager in your usual way, observe. What makes he or she tick? Can you tell when their moods shift? What led to that? What motivates this individual?

When you get curious, you make their behavior a puzzle to figure out. And when you figure it out, you can modify your behavior to evaluate outcomes. Suddenly, their behavior is a way for you to study different responses…which gives you more of a feeling of control. 

You can use the trick of getting curious with any relationship in your life.
Take the time to ask questions and observe your partners, friends, kids, neighbors. What can you learn when you are in your curious mode? 

2. Mind the gaps.

Where is your manager failing today?

This is critical information for you as you develop your own leadership style.

Note what is missing in your manager’s skillset. What problems do these missing elements cause? What is the ripple effect on the team and performance?

Once you know this information, you can study and master those traits.

Not only will this develop you for a leadership experience, but it will also provide valuable information for you to use going forward.

Start to see behaviors in your employees that you see today as an employee?

That is your sign your style is not landing well, and you can immediately change it. You will be able to use this information as a barometer for your own performance and self-correct whenever you need to; the behaviors you recognize while learning from bad leadership will make you a great leader in the future. 

You can also use this trick with your other relationships as well.

What are you missing in your relationships?

When you can provide those qualities to yourself, you’ll put less pressure on those around you. 

By removing that expectation, you can be more relaxed in your personal relationships because you are not expecting the other person to fulfill a need for you. 

3. Take some space.

It is easy to see another person’s behavior as being about you.

But it is not.

No one is thinking of you as much as you are thinking of you. In fact, your manager is thinking about himself and not thinking that much about you specifically at all.

When you stop taking bad leadership personally, you can get space from it and reduce its effect on you. If everyone in your office is complaining about your management’s leadership style, you can assume your manager’s behavior is not just directed at you. And when you stop taking things personally, it gives you space to distance yourself and protect your energy. 

You guessed it; the same line of thinking holds for personal relationships.

If your partner’s reaction is not truly about you, what is it about?
If your friend is acting differently to you, why? Ask!
This will give you valuable information about what is happening in your relationship, as well as give you the opportunity to learn more about the people closest to you. 


These three steps can help you learn from bad leadership and transform your career at the same time.

Reframing the situation to a positive for you can help you deal with a less-than-ideal situation until the situation changes.

If you implement the above, your bad manager can be the person who catapults you to the next level of your career!

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As a career coach, clients often ask me about how to align their purpose with their career.

If you’re in need of this kind of support, please reach out to me for a complimentary consultation to explore working together.