Bad Boss Behaviors Cause #3: Needing What We Should Be Leading

The third cause of bad boss behaviors is needing what we should be leading. Here's why and how to mitigate the root-cause.
A photo-realistic image of a businessman in front of a crowd. He holds a large bill tightly and looks very worried. The crowd surrounding him looks a mix of angry, worried, and sad. Some are pulling at him. Others wave money at him.

The third cause of bad boss behaviors is needing what we should be leading. If a leader needs their job, they will be more susceptible to Bad Boss Behavior™. The susceptibility stems from prioritizing what is best for their job security over what is best for the organization and all stakeholders. Let’s look at an example.


Your boss must choose a new benefits plan for the company. They’re confident Provider A is best for the company and its stakeholders. However, their boss really likes Provider B. This may be because provider B gives their boss some kickback, helps them hit their quarterly bonus, is led by a personal friend, or some other reason.

If your boss needs their job to sustain health benefits for their family, they are less likely to make the best decision for the company. Therefore, your boss will be pressured to select Provider B for their own benefit. Therefore, your boss practices bad boss behavior.


A well structured compensation model should also ensure your boss’s boss has the best interests of the company at heart. Should is the key word. Consider Enron, the 2008 financial crisis, and most major corporate failures. At the heart of those you will find executives who built self serving compensation models or otherwise manipulated systems for personal benefit.


As the leader yourself, the best ways to avoid needing what you should be leading include networking up, financial independence, and self confidence.


If you are in Human Resources, here is how you can mitigate the likelihood of this Bad Boss Behavior in your business:

We cannot lead what we need. By networking up, establishing financial independence, and building self-confidence we reduce our need and increase our ability to lead. 


As an employer, implementing mitigation steps like mentoring, succession planning, transparency, oversight, and feedback systems ensures we have leaders who lead from desire, not need. When leaders are free from the shackles of personal dependency, the possibilities for a better, brighter, and more innovative future for their organizations become limitless.

If you or your organization could use some help eliminating the three causes of Bad Boss Behavior: Lack of Education (cause #1); Unclear Expectations (cause #2); and Needing What We Should be Leading (cause #3), contact us. Let’s see how we can help you Build Better Bosses™.

Until next time, keep serving.

* I’m aware these statements reflect privilege. There are many in this world with lesser means or opportunity. In such situations, financial independence is not a possibility, and we suggest placing greater emphasis on networking up and self-confidence.


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Content

Servant Leadership Library

A list of companies that value servant leadership. This list includes big names like Southwest Airlines, Starbucks and YUM Brands as well as many, often less-known organizations.

Scroll to Top
We Value Your Privacy

This site uses cookies to enhance your experience. We do not share, sell, or lease your information for any other purpose.