Even bad leaders can teach you something. I could stop there, but I don’t know if it would sink in. It’s very easy to think that you don’t have to listen to someone if you are rooted in your thought that someone is a bad leader. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. From a biblical perspective, we have to be submissive to authority. Romans 13:1 – Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Even if you’re reading this and you don’t have a relationship with Christ, there’s still the basic concept that someone in authority (usually referred to as boss, manager, supervisor, etc.) is just that, your authority. And you can’t just go around defying authority or you won’t get very far. (There’s something to be said here about the current state of our nation and radical groups that are trying to defy local authorities, but I won’t open that can of worms.)
So, not listening to someone that you think is a bad leader surely isn’t the same as defying them. That’s a fine line to walk. I wouldn’t recommend it. Certainly you can make certain distinctions about that line on your own. But, I’m talking about the idea of just disregarding the things that a bad leader says. It’s very easy to forget humility when you are so rooted in your prideful belief that you think someone is a bad leader. Yes, I call it pride because often it involves some sort of self-righteous vein that says you’re better than this crappy leader you have to submit to. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. The idea that you’re thinking of yourself as better probably negates the idea that you ARE better and honestly puts you in the same playing arena as that bad leader. They can very well be a bad leader, but so are you if you’re forgetting your place and forgetting to be humble and teachable.
If you take the approach of listening to what they say, processing it objectively, and trying to learn from a bad leader, you may surprise yourself. First of all, you can always learn how NOT to behave by paying attention to the things that the bad leader does that makes them a bad leader. If you understand how their actions, words, etc. impact you or others negatively, you can make sure to put in safeguards that keep you from becoming like them. I have seen, first-hand, too many people that have been influenced by bad leaders and have become bad leaders themselves because they have adopted those same bad habits. For some seasons in my life, I was one of those bad leaders that became a bad leader by adopting bad leadership traits from a bad leader that adopted those traits from their bad leader… it’s just a terrible cycle. Break it. Now.
One thing to also consider is that people don’t generally achieve a leadership role without having some capacity to lead. There are different leadership styles. I’m a relational leader. Some people are not very relational, but that doesn’t make them a bad leader. I can’t dismiss a non-relational leader because they don’t do things the same way I do. They got to where they are because they have proven themselves at some point to get there. That also doesn’t mean that just because someone is in a leadership role that they are perfect. They may have developed bad habits or just become stale and out of touch. But, God says clearly that He has established leadership, so He is aware of who is where and they are there for His purposes. When you keep this in mind, it allows you to not only remain humble and submit to them, but also to learn whatever you can from them.
Some nuggets I have learned from bad leaders:
- If you don’t care who gets credit, you will be surprised what you can accomplish.
- Just because someone doesn’t do it the same way you would doesn’t make their way wrong.
- If all you do is run away from challenges, you’ll never grow and God will keep letting you experience those challenges until you learn what He wants you to learn.
- Don’t compromise your values and beliefs for anything. It’s not worth it.
- Don’t respond when you’re angry or excited. It will get you intro trouble every time.
These seem like fairly common sense things, right? Maybe they were to you and I’m just not that bright. But, these are some of the many things I have learned from really bad leaders. I’ll be honest with you, they weren’t easy lessons to learn. I could give you a multipage story for each one of those five points and I could give you page after page of bullet points of lessons I’ve learned from people that I wouldn’t ever put in a leadership role if it was up to me. And those are just the good things I’ve learned. I have also learned many “bad” things too. Some of them are things that are bad that I know to avoid. Some of them are bad things that I see occasionally creeping into my leadership approach. When the latter happens, and I notice it, I usually try to take a step back and change my approach. Sadly, I don’t always notice it.
Bad leaders are leaders nonetheless. You have to submit to them*. You can’t just do your own thing and ignore their direction and leadership. If you do, you’re also a bad leader. You should also not simply turn away from what God may teach you through those bad leaders. He may be grooming you for what’s next. He may be choosing to expose you to something that will help you tremendously in the next assignment He has for you. He may be trying to show you something He wants to change in you and is using that bad leader to reveal it. Ouch, that one hurt. Sorry.
*I will never tell you to submit to a leader that is encouraging illegal activity, unbiblical activity, unethical activity, unhealthy activity. In fact, I would tell you to report that to whoever the appropriate person is. If something in your organization doesn’t change to allow you to not have to submit to that, get out. You do NOT want to be in a place that allows or encourages that. That organization will not be blessed, even if it seems to succeed in worldly terms.