Wouldn’t it be great if there was a little blue pill designed to enhance leadership performance? Imagine a one-dose-wonder that could induce hours and hours of inspired leadership. Brilliant!

We’ve all worked for individuals or organizations who could benefit from this kind of prescription. Admit it. At some point in your career, you would have loved the idea of slipping one of those babies into your boss’s Monday morning mocha.

Strong organizations need strong leadership. It’s as simple as that. If you’re struggling to figure out if your CEO, boss, or supervisor is the kind of leader you need, here are some key symptoms to help you diagnose a potential problem.

Nice vs. Weak

The thing about bad leaders is that they aren’t necessarily bad people. In fact, they can be some of the nicest people you know. But if Ms. Nice Gal doesn’t think strategically, make tough decisions, get your team fired up, and empower them to do great things, she’s not a true leader. And your performance may be suffering, both personally and organizationally.

If you’re working for a nice boss who seems reluctant to show true leadership, you may want to try bringing it up in your one-on-one meetings or during your review by asking questions such as:

  • What direction is the company heading in this year?
  • How are you planning to take us there?
  • What goals are in place for the organization and for my department?
  • Are there ways my position/team can help support these changes?
  • How will you measure success?

Note: If you don’t have regular one-on-one meetings or reviews in which to bring these things up, you’re working in a weak leadership organization.

Any great leader would be thrilled to get and respond to the questions above. If your boss stumbles, seems perplexed, or can’t provide adequate answers, you’ve just confirmed you’re working for a nice person— who also happens to be a weak leader.

Busy vs. Absent

Leadership is demanding. It requires handling a lot of things at once. So it makes sense that your boss is out and about, right? Of course. But there’s definitely a difference between busy and absent. Is your manager never around when you have a question or need some guidance? Are projects that seem appropriate for leadership getting placed on other people’s desks? Is your supervisor out for hours on end— with no appointments on the calendar? If so, it could be a case of absentee leadership.

Absentee leadership can happen when a leader becomes too comfortable, too uncomfortable, or has one foot out the door. Perhaps your CEO is on the verge of retirement, looking to sell the company, or doesn’t know how to handle current organizational challenges. If you sense something like this might be going on, tread carefully. Never assume you have it all figured out.

If you’re interested in professional development, consider asking your boss for an informational interview to discuss possible career path options and what kinds of things are involved in leadership positions at your company. Ask what a typical day or week looks like in his or her world. You may find out it’s a 60 hour a week job filled with tasks and responsibilities you didn’t even know existed.

If you have these conversations and are left feeling confused or disheartened, it could be a warning sign.

should you seek treatment?

Think about your own values, how you work best, and what you want out of your career. Is a pleasant working environment all you need to be happy or is the lack of direction and fortitude making you crazy?

If you’re independent, even-keel and anti-conflict, you may not require strong leadership to be at your best. 

If you’re happy in your role but think you might benefit from some additional leadership, you may be able to find it from other sources. 

  • Ask someone you admire to be a professional mentor
  • Join a business-focused group, either in person or via LinkedIn
  • Look for opportunities to work with other departments or leaders within the organization

If, at the end of the day, you find yourself craving an environment that will allow you to innovate, try new things, come together as a team, and be inspired on the job, you probably won’t be happy until you’re in an organization with a strong leadership culture.

Most importantly: If you are a leader in your organization, be a good one.

Because there is no magic pill.

Photo by Urospoteko

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