Editor’s note: There are lots of leadership books out there, but if you’ve read one you haven’t read them all. Each lesson in leadership forms part of a kind of matrix of accumulated and earned knowledge that will help you in your career. At least that’s the way we view it around here. What follows is an excerpt from author Eddie Molina’s book, A Beginner’s Guide to Leadership. Eddie is a talented and accomplished writer whose work has been featured on SOFREP and law enforcement journals like the Blue Magazine, Law Enforcement Today, and Police1 Magazine.

Eddie joined the National Guard as an enlisted man, accepted a commission, and deployed to Iraq. He spent 20 years in the military before moving to civilian life. He now lives in New Jersey and works in the department of corrections.

You can buy Eddie’s book A Beginner’s Guide to Leadership here.

As always, we are interested in your feedback.  Give us your thoughts in the comments below.

Here Are Some Common Elements of a Bad boss.

Situation: George, an office employee, is talking to his co-worker, Steve, about his upcoming meeting with the boss.

Steve: “Oh geez, I have a meeting with the boss and I’m dreading it, he’s such a jerk.”

Paul: “How are you going to handle it?” 

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Steve: “I’m just going to give him some basic answers, yes him to death and get the hell out of there. I’ve tried telling him the issues before and how they are going to get worse but he doesn’t want to hear it. He just wants to hear what he wants and gives us crap for what happens afterward.” 

This is an all too common scenario in today’s workforce. Had the boss been an effective leader, that conversation would have been much different. Problems and mistakes will happen, no matter what type of boss you are. It is how you bounce back, recover, learn and grow from the experience that proves whether you are an effective leader or not.

Most of us have had an awful boss at one point or another. Chances are that if you hated him, so did everyone else. But how much thought have you given to figuring out why you hated him? Most bosses who are considered shitty usually have some characteristics and attributes in common. 

Here are some common elements of a bad boss:

  • Talks down to you
  • Mocks you publicly (even if they feel it is harmless and playful teasing)
  • Never listens to your ideas
  • Unapproachable
  • Inconsistent with how they treat everyone
  • Plays favorites
  • Hot-tempered

On the other hand, here are some elements of an effective leader:

  • Genuinely respects their employees
  • Praises employees for a job well done
  • Is approachable
  • Cares about the well-being of others
  • Trains and mentors staff
  • Is consistent
  • Treats everyone fairly 
  • Has great interpersonal skills.

Think about how hard you would work for a great leader versus a bad leader. If you can master some of the basic concepts in this book, you will encourage your employees to put their best foot forward every time for you, giving you and your organization the best chance for success.

Degrees of Micromanagement

When most people hear the term micromanagement, they envision someone looking over their shoulder all day checking up on their work.

“How’s the project coming along?”

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“What’s the update from your department?”

“What are you doing now?”

“Why are you doing that?”

“Do you know what you are doing?”

“Is it done yet?”

“Who told you to do it that way?”

These are just a sample of questions that, when asked too often, are among the most annoying to hear. This is just one form of micromanagement, there are others; all will be discussed in this section. 

The best tool against micromanagement is to become aware of your own emotions when delegating tasks and responsibilities. It is almost a predictable pattern of emotions you will go through, especially if you lack true leadership and management experience. There is a science to leadership and the first step is being aware of what you are doing as a leader to negate the by-product of micromanagement. 

One of the most valuable things I learned as an army lieutenant is to become aware of my own emotions when delegating tasks and how that can manifest into micromanagement. When we first arrived in Iraq, everything was new to everyone. Our commander would hold a meeting with us lieutenants every day, go over the list of items that needed to be completed, assign each task to one of us and hold us accountable for its successful completion. Things like setting up the headquarters office, assigning barracks to the soldiers, ensuring the medical area was set up, equipment inventory, and so on. 

The following meeting started with verifying everything from the previous meeting was completed, and if not, why not and what was the solution. 

When we were assigned our tasks, I was trying to accomplish everything myself; that was my first mistake. I would literally try to arrange the barracks assignments, set up computers, inspect equipment, and whatever else came our way. When I was successful in doing everything, I felt accomplished. But it eventually became too much work for me to handle alone.

Despite occasionally feeling like I did well, I never realized I was neglecting my own platoon. I soon found out that my soldiers were questioning my tactics and wondered why they were even there if I was doing everything myself. My actions were a form of micromanagement. I was basically saying, “I cannot trust you, I have to do everything myself.” 

Once the tasks became too much for me to handle alone, I had no choice but to delegate downward. However, it didn’t end there. When I delegated a task, I would stress out because I knew I was responsible for its outcome and I could not know for sure if it would be completed properly or even at all. 

Part of the added stress was knowing that we were in a live combat area. Most lieutenants graduate training and report to their unit in a non-combat area on a base somewhere. That is where you learn your role as a new leader and if something goes wrong… well, lesson learned and keep going. I graduated my lieutenant’s training and virtually went straight into a combat zone. The stakes were higher and lives were on the line. I couldn’t allow simple mistakes to happen. Eventually, I recognized the stressful emotions I would experience when I first delegated a task and learned to cope with them in several ways. A concern that led to my stress was fearing that soldiers could not complete a task to a satisfactory degree. I also feared they did not care about the task so therefore I would have to do them myself. I also didn’t know who I could trust and, in fact, I couldn’t trust anyone at all. I feared that someone less skilled and knowledgeable would make a mistake that could cost us dearly, even if their intentions were good. All of this fear, anxiety, and discomfort was tied to my insecurities as a new leader and it all led to my micromanagement. 

Imagine this situation: The owner of a restaurant, Marty, is hanging out at the bar area observing the day-to-day operations in an effort to ensure quality and efficiency of service. Rebecca, a skilled bartender, is serving several customers in the bar area. 

Rebecca, speaking to a customer: “Here’s your drink, is there anything else I can get for you?”

Customer: “Not at the moment, thanks.”

Marty: “Rebecca, make sure you put the order in the system and include the seat number.”

Rebecca subtly rolls her eyes and takes a deep, quiet breath: “Yes sir, you got it.”

I, too, was at the bar area with the owner. I was hired by the corporate office to ascertain why this particular location had high turnover of staff. I saw the problem.

I turned to Marty and asked: “If you hadn’t asked Rebecca to put the order in the system, do you think she would have done it anyway?”

Marty responded: “Yes, of course. She has been here a while and knows what to do.”

Me: “Why then did you feel the need to tell her what to do?”

Marty: “I just wanted to make sure it gets done properly. I figured it couldn’t hurt to remind her.”

Over the next few hours, I could see the problem more clearly. Marty made it a habit of continually asking and prodding his staff on how to do their jobs. From an employee’s point of view, it was not only unnecessary and excessive, but it was also extremely annoying. 

I sat down with the employees and asked them what some of the problems were. Most of their concerns were directed towards Marty and his overbearing tactics. 

I explained to Marty that if he indeed does have faith and confidence in his staff, it is crucial that he prove it. Over the next couple of days, I helped him understand when and how to give his employees the space they need to work. He began to learn to overcome his anxiety and eventually, the morale of the employees improved. It was a happy ending.

I followed up with Marty a few months later and was glad to see that his progress had remained steady. His employees appreciated the trust they had been given and stepped up to the plate. I was even happier to see the same employees were still there. He pointed out that he spends far less time interviewing new applicants, training new employees, writing employees up, and more time at home with his kids. It all came down to controlling his emotions and preventing micromanagement. According to the corporate office, customer complaints dropped significantly and the mystery shoppers reported a sharp increase in food and service quality.