“If you want to test a man’s character, give him power,” said Abraham Lincoln. In her excellent book on power, “Power: a user’s guide”, Julie Diamond talks about power, its risks, its usefulness and how to exercise it. Julie Diamond defines power as our ability to impact and influence the world and others. It’s an energy that engages us, makes us creative and inspires us, but it’s also a responsibility we must exercise in the service of the common good. The more we have, the more difficult it is to exercise it, because it is demanding and the slightest misstep can have a phenomenal impact, not to mention the gaze of others who expect those with power to act in an exemplary fashion.
In her book, Julie Diamond describes 8 misuses of power. Here’s how these misuses of power can become, in the corporate world, 8 ways to be a bad manager. I coach executives, management teams and managers on a daily basis, and I frequently observe this misuse of power at all levels. And I have to say that this is only to be expected, as the job of a manager is an arduous and extremely stressful one, the expected managerial behaviors are rarely clearly expressed, and the preparation and coaching of managers is often inadequate. However, there is a way for managers to make progress: they must first become aware of their problem behaviors and the impact they have, they must then understand what is at stake and the benefits of initiating change, and finally they must accept to be accompanied or helped to correct the situation.
Here are 8 ways to be a bad manager by abusing your power:
1. The illegitimate manager: using power before it’s earned
This manager is not legitimate; he thinks that the title of manager is enough to give him authority and make him a leader. He’s in a hurry and launches projects without first trying to get his team on board. He doesn’t think about building relationships with his colleagues, communicating and explaining his ideas to them, soliciting their opinions and feedback. He doesn’t have the confidence of his team and can’t motivate them.
2. The indecisive manager: refusing to make a decision
This manager refuses to take responsibility and, for fear of hurting people, doesn’t make decisions. Afraid of conflict, they don’t set limits, go back on decisions and are easily swayed by the last person to speak, letting discussions and debates continue endlessly. He creates confusion and exhaustion in his team.
3. The aggressive manager: defend or attack
Unsure of himself, he always feels personally challenged and finds himself either in a defensive position or, conversely, in an aggressive one. He abuses his power by imposing his views and creates a confrontational work environment. In his team, we learn not to contradict him for fear of reprisals.
4. The narcissistic manager: seeking approval and recognition
He too has little self-confidence and uses his position to feed his ego and his need for recognition. He needs to feel admired, appreciated, important. The problem here is that, over time, he will make decisions based not on what needs to be done, but on the judgment of others. He creates a backyard atmosphere in his team, where fans and well-wishers are given priority.
5. The unilateral manager: not taking others’ opinions into account
Here’s a manager who doesn’t like to be challenged. He follows only his own ideas, taking only what suits him from other people’s feedback. He is not receptive to the advice and ideas of others, and does as he pleases. The risk for this manager is to become disconnected from reality. As the sole decision-maker, he turns his colleagues into mere followers and executors, and annihilates all creativity and innovation in his team.
6. The selfish manager: serving his own interests
This manager uses his power to serve his own personal interests, mixing the personal and corporate spheres. He asks others to do things he doesn’t like to do, promotes those closest to him, asks others to follow rules he doesn’t follow, and makes a habit of asking favors of his colleagues. He’s not a successful manager and creates mistrust and disengagement in his team.
7. The micro-manager: overdoing it
This manager is omnipresent. He takes care of everything, gives his opinion on everything, concentrates power and doesn’t know how to delegate. He thinks he knows everything better than everyone else, and also intervenes in areas where he has no expertise. He needs to control everything and doesn’t trust easily. His attitude creates frustration in the team and impacts collective performance.
8. The irresponsible manager: lacking self-control
This manager thinks he’s all-powerful and doesn’t feel responsible for his actions. He can’t control himself, lets himself go, screams and acts in an obnoxious way with others when he’s stressed. He doesn’t admit his mistakes and blames others. He takes revenge on those who disagree with him. He treats his colleagues badly, humiliates them and can’t control his emotions. He creates a lot of stress and a climate of fear in his team.
Source: Julie Diamond / “Power: A user’s guide
To go further
At WINGMIND, we carry out assessments of executives and managers to help them identify their strengths and areas for improvement. We also support executives and managers to develop their managerial skills and improve their performance and impact on their teams.
Founder of WINGMIND, David Chouraqui serves as an advisor and coach for leaders and management teams. His areas of expertise include HR audits, leadership assessments, and change management.