My wife is a traveler in her profession. This mean she's a temporary employee for companies that send her all across the country to do EEG work. Unlike a consultant, she has no authority and gets a W-2. She likes it because she's had the opportunity to see places she'd have never gone previously.

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Before she embarked on this career, I told her that she was about to have a unique opportunity to see how leadership works in many different hospitals. I told her to expect that most of it would be bad, based on research I conducted when I wrote my first book Embrace The Lead years ago. She'd already seen a lot of bad leadership in her profession, but thought she'd see something different throughout her travels.

It took just under 3 years for her to acknowledge that I was correct. She said that out of all the places she'd been to date that only one place she'd been had a leader who not only seemed to know what she was doing, but treated all the employees fairly. She was also the only leader who the employees actually liked; that makes sense.

In the book, I mentioned that 85% of all appointed leaders had never led anything in their lives, thus were mostly bad leaders. She's been to 7 hospitals before the one she's at now, which brings the percentage to 14% being good... and it was her most recent supervisor. Seems the statistic fits. 🙂

As we talked, I asked her about the bad leaders and what made them bad. I figured I would know what she would say, and I wasn't too far off. Here are 4 highlights that she noted.

1. Most of the supervisors didn't know what she did.

It's not that my wife felt her knowledge was superior. The reality was that 5 of the 7 supervisors didn't actually know or do the job she was hired for. All of them were trained in something else but given the responsibility of oversight for her department. It was the same problem she encountered while working in hospitals locally.

It's bad enough when those who lead you have no idea what you do. It's worse when they don't even try to learn even a small bit of it. It's worse still when they try to set rules for these people to follow or make decisions about them that counters what they're supposed to be doing, as well as their safety and the safety and privacy of patients. Decision makers who don't know what's going on or don't have the skills to ask questions of those who do before setting policy are dangerous.

2. Most supervisors won't address bad employees.

At two of her locations, once they knew she wasn't a permanent employee, the other employees took liberties that my wife had to deal with. At another, a couple of the employees were suspected of stealing but no one wanted to address it. At another location the other employees always left at least 30 minutes before the shift ended, which left my wife working a lot of overtime, which the hospital then complained about because of what she was making. Luckily, they still had to pay her.

Managers need to be strong enough to counsel, discipline or dismiss employees who don't follow the rules and, oddly enough, do the work they were hired for. They also need to make sure they protect new or temporary employees from being taken advantage of. This is professionalism after all, and if you can't do the job as either an employee or a manager you need to leave.

3. Most supervisors didn't make sure there were enough supplies.

At three of the hospitals the employees kept running out of the proper supplies because the supervisors didn't know enough about the job to make sure they were stocked well enough. At one of the hospitals the person in authority actually was certified to do the work, yet she wasn't skilled in ordering supplies, assuming that they were using too much and wasting hospital resources.

Any person in a position of leadership over others has 3 obligations. The first is to make sure the employees are trained well. The second is to treat all employees fairly. The third is to make sure that employees have everything they need to do their job. This wasn't the case for the majority of supervisors she had to work with, and that's a major shame.

4. Most supervisors didn't talk to the employees.

At one of the hospitals the supervisor never talked to her. Actually that's not quite true; she did talk to her once when there was a city wide weather emergency, but that was the only time. At five other hospitals she almost never saw the supervisors because they were always off at meetings. Many times she had to find things out second hand and after the fact; that's no way to run a department.

Good leaders have good communication skills and aren't afraid to talk to employees. Good leaders, even with a lot of meetings, make sure that they give a lot of time to their employees so they know what's going on. I couldn't tell you how many nights I would talk to my wife and she'd gripe about this particular issue; intolerable!

I'll add this part. It's not only an indictment against the supervisors she's had to report to but the people who put these folks in charge. Obviously they weren't trained in how to hire the best candidates for the job, which makes one question their competencies and their qualifications for leadership.

It's a shame that bad leadership is perpetuated like water rolling down a mountain when it starts to get warm. This is one reason why I always say that without C-level employees participating in leadership training it's going to be hard to change the culture of a company and its employees.

At least now my wife thinks I'm a genius; I'll take what I can get.