Why Bad Bosses Care Most About Their Title

If you're in the job for the title, you shouldn't be in the position.

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Do you remember how it felt when you got that promotion that also included a Manager, Supervisor, or Executive title? Chances are, you felt pride, a sense of accomplishment, and a bit of excitement. 

While there is nothing wrong with having a new title, there is a good chance it’s hurting your ability to effectively lead. Titles are dangerous for those who hold them because they create a distraction away from the actual responsibility of leading others.

Take Mark, an experienced regional manager at a fast-growing company, for example. When he was first promoted to a position of leadership he was flush with excitement and passion. 

At first, he carried that passion when he interacted with team members and customers. Everything was going well, but then the pressures of the job and his team’s performance caught up. The output from his region wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t growing at the pace his venture-backed company demanded.  

Mark did was most managers in this position do, and started to put extra emphasis on people working at an accelerated pace (at the expense of everything else). He demanded performance reports be created and turned in within a couple of hours, he expected 12-14 hour days, and he denied requests for PTO.  

The result was a burned-out team who began seeking opportunities for employment elsewhere. The reason was simple: Mark didn’t focus on leading and instead focused on fulfilling the job requirement of his title.  

Sure, reports have to be run and the performance of his team matters, but solely focusing on the duties required to be a manager, supervisor, or executive is a recipe for disaster. There’s a substantial difference between the title of “manager” and the actions of a leader; one is vastly more important than the other in today’s business environment. Therein is why much of the primary roles of a manager can be automated and replaced by technology. On the other hand, there has never been a more important time in our history to be a leader.  

If you find yourself falling into the same pattern as Mark, here’s what you can do: 

Take Responsibility

Making any change starts with admitting the problem. On a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Amir Ghannad spoke about the importance of taking responsibility. He said, “Leaders either:

1. Created the problem,

2. Contributed to the problem, or

3. Tolerated the problem.

You must be self-aware enough to realize and take responsibility for your intense focus on your title instead of your people. Start by looking in the mirror.  

Focus On Your #1 Job

I know you think your job is to execute the tasks expected of your management role. While you absolutely have to do the things required to complete the job your primary role of being in a position of leadership is to elevate others.  I define leadership in Building the Best as someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve others to produce an improved state over an extended period of time. But simply knowing this definition isn’t enough for the most influential leaders — the real difference lies in living it out because actions speak louder than words.

I have yet to encounter a strong leader who isn’t keenly aware of how important their actions are, as far as setting an example to the people they lead. Many are borderline fanatical about the decisions they make and the positions they put themselves in.

Get a Coach to Help

If I am being honest, there is no way I would have written this 5 years ago, but I have never been more convinced that every leader should have someone to coach them to higher levels of performance and be their accountability partner.

As strong and experienced as you may be, no one has all the answers. Whether you believe that professional coaching will help you or not, seeking someone else to bounce ideas off and verbalize the decisions you are making will be a key to your success.  

There is a major trend happening right now where organizational leaders are seeing the benefit of one-on-one coaching and making investments to support their people. If you find yourself in one of these situations, that’s excellent. If you aren’t, seek out support from an outside coach or partner up with a colleague and help each other.

Elevate the Way You LeadBuilding the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is published by McGraw-Hill and was the #1 Best New Management Book to Read by Book Authority. Learn the stories, principles, and tools to help elevate the way you lead.

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