When ‘Trapdoor Leaders’ Strike!

medium_3225992351Some time back, I worked for a very ‘interesting’ employer (no pun intended). I chose the term interesting because I decided to look at the brighter side of the whole experience.

When the phone on my desk would ring, I felt like a bucket of icy cold water had been poured over my head. If the caller ID showed one of two people I dreaded engaging with, it was like someone had just viciously extracted my heart without any anesthesia.

This is a classic description of people who lead from a position of weakness. They instil fear in those they lead. Their followers are constantly on edge, wondering just when the lever on the trapdoor will suddenly open and swallow them whole. These type of people hold followers ransom and place a noose around their necks. One slip up and the noose does its job… an unnecessary reprimand, a warning letter in your file, or worse still, loss of your job.

Your following is inspired by fear because you may have no other option. Certainly, that is how I felt. However, when I thought deep and hard, I realized that these ‘leaders’ have these three characteristics in common… Absent, Abusive and Averse.

ABSENT is the first strong trait that trapdoor leaders have. They are always on the road ‘taking care’ of business. It is difficult to understand what value these business trips add to the organization. Wherever they go, people who work for them are always tense. The only thing their presence brings is an unsettled group of people.

Trapdoor leaders tend to be emotionally absent from their employees. My guess is as good as yours, but I propose that they may have deep-seated insecurities themselves. Maybe they were pushed into taking leadership. Perhaps some are not even sure that they can lead. They are just visible but run for the hills when difficult decisions have to be made. [TweetMe]

“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” —Ken Kesey

ABUSIVE is another trait trapdoor leaders have. They abuse their platform by being verbose to intimidate others and keep discussions to themselves during meetings. It nearly becomes impossible for others to chip in with their thoughts or ideas. Power becomes their trump card. When sensitive issues affecting organizational performance are brought up, they are only to be discussed off the record (that is, they are not minuted).

These ‘leaders’ are also very quick to use abrasive language (whether in public or one-on-one). It includes cursing and shouting. Policies are in place for others and not themselves. They will stop at nothing to satisfy their ego [TweetMe].

“People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” —John Maxwell

Finally, trapdoor leaders are AVERSE to organic growth or development of both individuals and the organization unless they get the lion’s share of glory. They are controlling and won’t allow those working under them to reach their potential.

Have you ever worked on a project and felt like your boss is always looking over your shoulder? Beware! That is a classic symptom of a trapdoor leader. They want to control everything you do but aren’t ready to take responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make [TweetMe].

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Now those are three “A’s” anyone can do without, and they are just the top line ones I can start of with. I guess if we were to go down the full alphabet, an encyclopedia of trapdoor leaders could easily be published.

In the end, I had to take control of my ship. It wasn’t easy, but I made a decision to be in a place where I actively add value to others. Coaching, advising and growing.

What have you struggled with? Did you overcome your predicament? Please drop a comment of your experience below…

 photo credit: garlandcannon via photopin cc

Certified Professional Coach, Communication Specialist & Author

I help motivated but overwhelmed individuals and organizations regain their purpose to lead so they can focus on what matters most to build a transformational legacy.