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10 Signs You’re Just a Jerk…Not A Leader

So you lead. You’re in charge…at least you’re in charge of something or hope to be one day.

But how do you know you’re leading effectively…and that you’re not, well, a jerk?

I mean we’ve all been around leaders who are extremely difficult to be around.

Think about how badly leaders are often viewed.

Over the years, boss has even become a bad word. If you’re a pushy kid, you get labeled as bossy and people stay away. Hollywood simply needs to put the word “horrible” in front of the word “bosses” in a movie title and everyone smiles because they can relate. Who hasn’t had a horrible boss?

And yet, sometimes there’s a fine line between being an effective leader and being a jerk. The strength required to be a leader can sometimes push you up against the hard edges of your personality.

When you reach that point you fail. You not only destroy others, you ultimately destroy yourself.

Here are ten signs you’re actually being a jerk, not a leader.

jerk

1. You’ve made the organization all about you

Hey, there’s no doubt your leadership gift probably brings something to the organization or church in which you serve—maybe even a lot.

Leaders, after all, make things happen.

If you want to be a jerk, make the organization about you.

Make sure you’re front and center all the time. Think about how grateful people should be to have you.

Be incredulous at why more people don’t thank you for your leadership. Imagine that you should be paid more.

Just think of  yourself as undervalued and indispensable. Jerks, after all, think it’s all about them.

2. You think that people work for  you

If you’re a jerk and not a true leader, you’ll believe people work for you. 

Contrast that with what the best bosses do. The best bosses think of themselves as working for the people around them.

They prefer to serve rather than be served.

If you keep thinking people work for you, few people will want to work for you.

3. You never say thank you

Jerk leaders rarely say thank you. After all, why would you say thank you when people are just doing their jobs?

Jerk leaders rarely take the time to tap someone on the shoulder and tell them they noticed the difference that team member made today.

And why thank the employee who worked late to get the project done? After all, shouldn’t they just be grateful to get a paycheck?

Great bosses often take the time to hand-write a thank you note.

They high five people.

They look team members in the eye and tell them how much they appreciate them.

They put their arm around people and say thanks.

Great leaders realize nobody has to work for them. Which is why people do.

4. You’re demanding

One sure way to be a jerk is to demand things of people.

It’s one thing to have high standards (great leaders have high standards), but to remain a jerk, make sure you always communicate those standards in a way that demeans people.

Always focus on what you want from people. Never think about what you want for people.

5. You keep the perks of leadership to yourself

Leadership does have perks. Maybe you know some people other folks would love to connect with.

Maybe you get the nicer office or have a slightly bigger budget than others. Or people send you gift cards once in a while because you’re the boss man. Or you have a nice parking space (which you shouldn’t by the way… here’s why).

To stay a jerk, just make sure you never share anything with anyone. Keep it all to yourself. Whatever you do, don’t be generous.

6. You keep yourself front and center

If you’re a jerk leader, you think you’re so valuable to the organization (see point 1) that you do whatever it takes to be at the center of everything at all times.

You don’t develop young talent. You’re too insecure to share your platform with others. You never push other people into the spotlight. (Insecurity causes a lot of leadership problems by the way. Here are 5.)

You’re never going to retire anyway, or even if you do, it doesn’t really matter if the organization crumbles when you go, does it?

Besides, no one else on your team has dreams, gifts or hopes. Why would you pay attention to that?

Think about it: Great leaders don’t build platforms; they build people.

7. You take the credit and assign the blame

If you’re a jerk leader, there are two surefire ways to anger your team.

First, take all of the credit for anything good that happens in your organization.

Make sure you mention how it was your idea and whatever you do, don’t mention your team or how hard they worked on the project.

Second, when things go off the rails, wash your hands of it. Look surprised and then appear concerned.

Blame something else.

Blame someone else.

Blame anything else.

You weren’t responsible anyway. Except for all of the good things, of course.

8. You never have your team’s back

Is there really any value in public loyalty? Didn’t think so.

If you want to alienate your team, speak poorly of them when they’re not in the room.

For example, when you disagree with a decision a team member made, make sure you tell anyone who will listen how much you disagreed with it.

And when someone complains to you about what a team member did, make sure you pull them aside and in hushed tones tell them how disappointed you were with their decision too, and that you don’t understand why they would do that.

For bonus points, never privately speak to the person with whom you disagree. Just smile when you see them.

Great leaders don’t always agree, but they always disagree privately behind closed doors and they support you publicly, no matter what. That builds a team.

As Andy Stanley says, great leaders realize that public loyalty buys you private leverage.

9. You make all the decisions

One sure sign of a jerk leader is that you infuriate other leaders on your team by personally making as many decisions as possible.

You never let them exercise their leadership gifts or become thinkers in their own right.

And when they do make decisions on their own, you meddle frequently.

You even pull out your pocket veto regularly. Especially if you’re acting on partial information and don’t have the whole story.

10. You act like a martyr

When your team is angry with you (as they should be), one sure sign you’ve moved to the jerk column is that you pull out the martyr card.

Nobody has it as hard as you do. True?

Nobody is as misunderstood.

I mean, who puts in as many hours for a thankless job? And who really understands you?

Nobody. Of course.

To keep jerk status, make sure you tell everyone how hard you work, how lonely leadership is and how you haven’t taken a vacation in X years.

Great leaders realize leadership has a cost, but they don’t expect others to share it. This is exactly why many people are willing to share the cost with a great leader.

The Jerk Inside Me

How do I know jerk leadership so well?

Because I have a jerk inside of me I need to suppress every day. My guess is you might too.

Fortunately, Jesus introduces a completely different paradigm for leadership.

If you want to be a Christ-like leader, just do the opposite of these ten things. You’ll be well on your way.

And Christ promises to help you.

If you’re like me, it takes supernatural strength to lead in a Christ-like manner. But there’s no better way to lead a team (or your family).

Include Your Team on Decision Making

If you want to include your team on decision making and help them own the challenges before you, my last book (Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow) is 100% designed to facilitate team discussion and problem-solving on the biggest issues facing church leaders today.

Plus there’s even a full chapter on creating a healthy team.

You can buy the book and/or the team edition video series (for team discussion) here.

Want to see a sample? Download a free chapter here.

What Do You Think?

What other characteristics of jerk leaders have you seen?

How is this battle at work in your life?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

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6 Comments

  1. Randy Robinson on August 14, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    Carey! I’m new to your podcast and blog. I’m a youth and worship pastor soon to be starting a church from scratch church planter. The info is invaluable. Thank you!!! I love this blog. I’d love to hear you do a similar podcast from a staff pastor’s perspective. Maybe so the senior leaders can hear what makes us (staff pastors) tick and what ticks us off. What makes us love working for them or hate working for them. Just a thought. God bless!

  2. […] 10 Signs You’re Just A Jerk…Not A Leader by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  3. Joe Tiner on August 10, 2016 at 7:24 am

    Zero comments. Not surprising. Jerk leaders retaliate against those who confront them about their abuse.

  4. Today in Blogworld 08.09.16 - Borrowed Light on August 9, 2016 at 7:54 am

    […] 10 Signs Your’re Just a Jerk…and Not A Leader […]

  5. […] a recent cautionary blog on 10 Signs You’re Just a Jerk…Not a Leader. I’ll just list his points, but you want to read the whole […]

  6. […] 10 Signs You’re Just a Jerk…Not A Leader –Carey Nieuwhof How do I know jerk leadership so well? […]

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