Nice Person to Tyrant: Signs of a Leadership Apocalypse

Nice Person to Tyrant: Signs of a Leadership Apocalypse

Sid Smith


I have a friend who's boss is a really nice person. Everyone likes her, she easily completes all her administrative tasks, and keeps her office neat and tidy. She also avoids conflict, overlooks shoddy work by her underlings, and refuses to address office harassment.

Nice people can really suck as leaders. They’re oftenuninspiring, hate stirring the pot, and far too often let things slide that shouldn’t. We love them, nonetheless because they still get the job done.

Tyrants, on the other hand, are fabulous at pot stirring. They inspire the masses with bluster, threats, and bullying. They are often hated, but respected for saying what no one else will say. And, they too get the job done if for no other reason than nobody wants to be on the sharp end of their wrath.

Both tyrants and nice people have the potential of bringing a team to their knees. While one limps along because they’re uninspired and feel unloved, the other limps because one or more leg is broken. Whenever you see drops in performance, morale, or retention, look to your leadership team first.

Between the extremes

Every leader sits somewhere on the nice person – tyrant scale. Some can do both with equal dexterity through passive-aggressive behavior. You know the type: nicer than all get-out, but subtly puts you in your place or slaps you down to size in purely underhanded ways. They often use the group to chastise the individual.

Lest you misunderstand the direction of this article, there is no utopia here. A nice person can be a fabulous leader, just as someone with authoritarian leanings can become a fabulous leader. One is not necessarily better than the other, providing they are in a seat that fits their skills, knowledge, and personality. Then, when they learn how to use their innate talents to lead and manage, they can become a great leader.

Three steps to avoiding a leadership apocalypse

Step One: Leaders Fit Your Company. Ensure that any leader in your company fits your company. That over-aggressive, but inspiring manager may produce the same result as putting a lion in a cage with puppies. All leaders should perfectly match your values and be thoroughly inspired by your vision.

Step Two: Right Seat. Assuming a leader fits your company, try to match his or her personality, skills, and knowledge to the position. Your company Visionary has big ideas, a big personality, and tends toward bowling people over. He/she should not directly supervise others. That nice person you dearly love may be well-suited for leading a small, intimate team, but can fail big time overseeing a large group. They simply can’t handle the inherent conflict.

Step Three: Training. Nobody is born knowing how to lead and manage. While one person may be truly inspiring, he can easily suck at day-to-day management. Likewise, the micro-manager couldn’t inspire a beaver to gnaw on a tree, and might even turn that poor beaver into an omnivore.

Leadership and management practices of great managers

I couldn’t say it any better. Read this EOS® blog article “Are you a great boss or a not-so-great boss” that contains a cool infographic, as well as the Five Leadership Practices and Five Management Practices of Great Bosses. I also highly recommend the book.


Sid: 971-678-1495
Eric: 503-635-2319