It has been years since I experienced truly bad leadership but the lessons have stuck with me and I appreciate them. These experiences have become valuable touchstones – literal pictures of what I’m determined never to be or emulate. They work in all of life’s arenas: company, client, community, family, and friendship.
Here are some of the potential payoffs. Negative leadership experiences can help us develop empathy for others as they show us what it feels like to be discouraged by someone we look up to. Developing self-awareness is the first step toward emotional intelligence. These experiences can push us forward in our EQ path in that we have first-hand knowledge of the impact words have on others. The most valuable lesson of all is that recalling these instances can serve as a strong reminder that we all have shortcomings, some of which we may not have yet identified.
What is required of us to turn toxic work relationships into valuable life lessons? Courage, for one thing. It takes bravery to ask oneself what role we might be playing in the bad relationship. The other quality that will move us miles forward is curiosity. Why is this person acting the way they are? What would happen if you met privately with this person for feedback on your performance? There is an excellent article in the resource list below with some pretty creative coping mechanisms – see Work Nightmare No.1 – The Very Bad Boss. Despite its title this is a forward-looking piece with solid advice.