Bad Boss Behaviors™ Cause #1: Lack of Education

A businessman demonstrates Bad Boss Behaviors by screaming at employees.

Many job descriptions in business require a college degree. Later, when that same employee is promoted to a leadership role, the investment in their development seems to vanish. Suddenly, we expect people to navigate uncharted waters with little to no training. It’s like we expect new bosses to acquire leadership skills through osmosis.

The Expectation Gap

The college degree requirement establishes that a candidate is well-educated in their field, with a deep understanding of their responsibilities. However, the moment that same person transitions from an individual contributor to a leader, it’s like we cease to have expectations in their abilities. We expect promoted individuals to be experts in entirely different skills, with no need for further development or education. Would you expect an apple tree to bear fruit without nutrients and sunlight? Yet this seems our basic approach when selecting new bosses.

Why the Gap?

Why do companies skimp on leadership education and development?

  1. Innate Assumption: Some people perceive leadership as an innate quality. This is false. People leadership is a skill like any other skill. It can be taught, fostered, and enhanced. Are some people naturally better leaders than others? Yes. Again, just like any other skill. Some people are better at math while some are more creative. That does not mean you’d assume an accountant will automatically develop their accounting skills.
  2. Undervaluation: Some organizations simply do not value people leadership skills. Their existing leaders and human resource departments do not believe that people leaders exponentially impact results. Again, this is false. Individual contributors primarily impact the quality and results on one person. People leaders primarily impact the quality and results of the many people reporting to them.

Reality Check

Let’s put this education gap into perspective. If we compare the time and effort invested in a bachelor’s degree to the typical investment in leadership development for new bosses, it’s like comparing a gourmet meal to a crumpled, half-eaten sandwich.

  • A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years of full-time study. This includes about 4,000 hours of classroom time, study, and assignments. That’s a gourmet, 3-star Michelin meal.
  • In contrast, a new boss who was lucky to get a single course in college on leadership, AND their employer sends them to a 3 day class, may invest a total of 120 hours learning the skills that exponentially impact the organization’s performance and results. That’s a lousy, crumpled up, half-eaten sandwich.
A bar chart detailing the typical hours invested in education for individual contributors vs. people leaders / bosses. The data includes: Associate Degrees / Trade Professionals = 2160 hours; Bachelor degrees = 4320 hours; Master degrees = 6480 hours; Doctorates = 8,640 hours; Experts = 10,000 hours. But then, Leadership Development = only 120 hours!

Recipe for Greater Success

So, what’s the solution to this first cause of bad boss behaviors?

  1. Understand Leadership is a Skill: Treat leadership like other skills. It can be learned and improved.
  2. Invest in Leadership Development: Companies need to commit to providing comprehensive leadership training, mentoring, feedback, continuous improvement, and support for new bosses.

Stop expecting new people leaders absorb the skillset through osmosis. Leadership is a skill that requires time, effort, and dedication. If we invest in our leaders like we invest in individual contributors, we’ll create a workforce that’s not only well-educated but also well-prepared to steer our organizations toward success.

Next week, we tackle Bad Boss Behaviors™ Cause #2: Overcomplication of Leadership Principles. Until then, keep serving!

If you or your organization could use some help building better bosses™, contact Ben.

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