Responsibility for ineffective and unethical leadership is held by many parties, not just leaders themselves.
Harvard’s Barbara Kellerman argued that followers – and certainly Executive Board members – can precipitate, enable and collaborate in bad leadership.
She studied followership of incompetent, corrupt, and evil leadership in public and business settings.
Kellerman concluded that both followers and uninvolved bystanders who do not object enable bad leaders to continue their practices.
Supporting her contention is experimental demonstration of the powerful impact of “Bystander Apathy” by New York University’s John Darley and Bibb Latané of Columbia.
Because followers have less power and status than leaders, complacent observership can be the norm when organizations don’t establish processes to report ineffective and unethical leadership practices with protections against negative repercussions.
Given the challenges of challenging bad leadership practices, followers can increase chances of understanding organizational culture and leadership practices by conducting pre-employment “due diligence” before accepting a role,
Questions to evaluate “fit” with a leader include:
- How do you prefer to communicate with your direct reports?
- How do you mentor, coach, and develop your direct reports?
- How would you describe your work style?
- How do you manage conflict within the team?
- How will you measure success in this role after a year?
- What are your three most important values?
- How do your direct reports describe your management style?
- How are you and your team perceived in the organizations?
- To what extent do you involve your team members in decisions?
- How do you support work-life balance for team members?
These queries can’t guard against unexpected circumstances like managers rapidly moving to a new group or restructurings that result in an unevaluated new manager, role, or group.
However, they may provide additional guidance to potential “warning signs” of “misemployment,” and reduce responsibility for complicity in enabling poor management styles.
-*What questions have you found most effective in assessing work style “fit” and compatibility with a potential manager?
-*What “bad leader” roles have you observed in your organzation?
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