An Unpredictable Leader

I had the misfortune of working with a leader for some time who is quite moody, inconsistent, and unpredictable. You never know what he is going to say or do the very next moment. Since you don’t know what to expect, you surely become hesitant, fearful, and nervous. In addition to that, quite contrary to my nature, I remember always going to him with the problems instead of the proposed solutions that I have in my mind.

My colleagues and I struggled to figure out how to navigate his leadership and predict what he wants and had a severe impact on our productivity. One minute he will ask you about your kids, and the next minute he will threaten you. Sometimes he will help us with the solution, and other times he is angry that there is a problem. Often as a team, when we planned to celebrate small wins, we are not sure whether to invite him or not. When we request a minute of his time, sometimes he will hug us, and other times he will push you away. When you greet him in the office or the cafeteria, sometimes, he will smile and say hello, and other times he will ignore you. We always looked at him as a self-centered leader because he is always focused on his feelings, thoughts, priorities, and plan. He intentionally or unintentionally never had room to focus on the team he is leading and always puts his needs and wants ahead of his team members and everyone else.

Sometimes as a leader, you want to remain as unpredictable for a certain period on certain policies but certainly not with your people in your day to day interactions. Psychologists have proved that being unable to predict what happens in a team environment is extremely stressful and requires complex coping skills to deal with. Unfortunately, being unpredictable was a life and leadership strategy for my manager. He took a lot of pride in his unpredictable nature and often thought about it as a strategy to keep his team on their toes whenever they think they have figured out how to work with him. He ended up creating a lot of noise at the workplace.

What would you do if you worked for a moody boss who yelled and cursed you regularly? The answer is simple; you would work hard to find another job because life is way too short to work with fools. If you think you are an unpredictable leader, then its time that you should start working on consistency. It would help if you made it easy for your team to meet your expectations because unpredictability is a nightmare for people trying to manage upwards. The question is, how do you know whether you are displaying unpredictable nature or not? Simple; check if you have any one of the below qualities.

  1. Do you get angry about small mistakes and problems?
  2. Do you find it difficult to control your emotions or mood?
  3. Do you treat people with disrespect?
  4. Do you withhold information from the team and thereby making them incapable to take the right decisions?
  5. Do you struggle to recognize people’s contributions or success?
  6. Do you jump to conclusions and pass judgment without having all the facts?
  7. Do you lack listening skills?
  8. Do you feel insecure and unwilling to allow the team to decide without your involvement?
  9. Do you say something, meaning the other and doing the third one altogether?

Pastor, best selling author, and leadership evangelist Craig Groeschel says that when we say the same thing repeatedly as a leader, and your actions are consistent with your words, that builds trust. Consistency matters in leadership. People would follow a leader rather with a consistently average plan than a leader with a great plan, bad plan, or a mediocre plan that changes all the time.  When you are predictable and consistent, your team knows what is important to you and how you decide on priorities.

The below actions can help you make consistent in your decisions and makes you predictable.

  1. Be intentional to respond instead of reacting.
  2. Firstly thank people for bringing problems or concerns to your attention. Do not forget to ask questions, get their perspectives, and evaluate their feedback for any solution proposals.
  3. When in doubt, refer to your organization’s purpose and values, which always act as a guiding light and help you make correct decisions.
  4. Take time to discuss with the team and explain how you arrived at decisions for recurring situations.
  5. Do not hesitate to admit when you’re wrong or when you do not have all the answers.
  6. Connecting with the team requires energy. Make an effort to greet your team pleasantly.
  7. If you conform to a course of action, follow up and see it through to the end.
  8. Do not hesitate to remove yourself from the situation and seek advice.
  9. Never make a decision when you are angry and never make a promise when you are happy.
  10. Let every conversation to be a constructive conversation rather than an emotional dump.
  11. Finally, take more blame than you deserve and less credit than you deserve.

Remember you don’t have to know it all to be a great leader. Be yourself, because people would rather follow a leader who is always real than one who is always right.

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