The following is an excerpt from a Harvard Business Review blog article by Linda Hill & Kent Lineback, authors of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader.
The stereotypical bad boss is one who marches through the workplace barking orders left and right. But there’s another type we’ve probably all experienced at one time or another: bosses who don’t do what they need to do. They provide no direction or guidance. What they want or expect isn’t clear. They’re distant, unapproachable. They can’t or won’t make choices. The list could go on and on.
It’s not that these bosses don’t know what to do. It’s more basic than that. They’re not willing to do what the job requires. They lack something — some spark, some urge, some need — that’s obvious when absent.
In our experience, a surprising number of managers lack the fundamental will or need to influence others, sharing a reluctance to press their people to take a new and different course Their reasons can vary. Some will do most anything to avoid conflict or disagreement; indeed, they see the manager as the one who maintains a harmonious workplace. Others are reluctant to do anything that might threaten or upset their personal relationships; their need to be liked dominates their behavior.
Why, then, do such people become managers? Most of all, they don’t understand what the role will require of them. They like the status and income that come from rising in a hierarchy. But until they get past whatever is keeping them from a willingness to influence proactively the behavior of others, they won’t be fully effective. Effective managers are sensitive to, and caring of, people — they know that why and how they exert influence matter greatly — but behind everything they do is this fundamental need to shape and change what others do and the thoughts and feelings that drive their actions.
Ask yourself: Do I want to influence others? Am I ready and willing to do so? This is the most fundamental task that managers and leaders perform. If you will not or cannot do it, if it makes you uncomfortable, if other needs — to be liked, for example — feel more compelling, you will struggle as a boss.