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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Will Your Bad Boss Make You a Bad Boss, Too?

by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman | November 27, 2013

One of the best predictors of whether a person will become an abusive parent is if he or she was abused as a child. On the face of it, this is puzzling. Certainly, as children, these people did not say to themselves, “This is how I want to treat my kids.” To the contrary, our guess is that they said to themselves, “I am definitely not going to treat my children the way I have been treated.” And yet they did; they did not escape the influence of that terrible role model.

This got us to wondering whether there might be a leadership analogy to this sad phenomenon. That is, we wondered, “Do people who work for terrible leaders turn out to be terrible leaders themselves?”

In our research we’ve demonstrated that a great leader can have powerfully positive effects on an organization: decreasing turnover of team members and greatly increasing customer satisfaction, profitability, employee engagement, sales revenue, and even workplace safety—virtually every business outcome that’s measureable. In those studies, we’ve looked primarily at the relationship between individual leaders and their groups of direct reports. Recently, we’ve become fascinated by the question, “How much impact does a great or poor leader have at the next level down—on those who work for those direct reports?” When we ask individuals about how their bosses influence their own leadership styles, they often respond that they are their own persons.

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