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Chris LoCurto


May 12, 2014

The Worst Kind Of Leadership

Leadership by it’s very definition means to LEAD people! A title, office, desk, business card, or name plate does NOT make you a leader!

If you think otherwise, you’re a dork. Yep, I wrote it. Why am I so passionate about that? Well… there’s a reason I help leaders, entrepreneurs, and team members succeed: years of experiencing bad leadership.

Growing up in Lake Tahoe, I played two main sports – ski racing and football.

Football, Pop Warner, Worst Leader,, Chris LoCurto, Tahoe, California football,

A 12 year-old me in Lake Tahoe, California

I started football as little guy in Pop Warner and played up into high school. Over the years I was a wide receiver, tight end, punter, kicker, corner back, and free safety. When I got to high school football, I mainly played cornerback.

During a play, I tackled a player in a way that slightly jacked up my ankle. Trying to be a tough guy, I didn’t say anything about it, and attempted to take care of it myself at home.

The next day, which happened to be game day, I could barely walk. I went to the game that day but didn’t suit up. When I saw my coach, I told him what I did and that I couldn’t play. He didn’t say anything to me, he just walked away.

A couple days later my ankle was healed, and I was ready to hit the field. I practiced well every day, but on game day I sat on the bench. Up to that point, I’d never been in a game that I didn’t play unless I was injured. It didn’t make sense to me.

For the next three games, I found myself not playing. Each game I would go to my coach and tell him I was ready to go in, and he would always say, “Okay.” Finally, toward the end of the fourth game of being benched, I asked the coach if something was wrong.

He looked at me and said, “Don’t ever TELL me when you can’t play! You ASK me!”

I was absolutely shocked and frankly, speechless. I couldn’t believe he benched me for four games without ever saying a word, without ever telling me why, and for such an incredibly lame reason.

I was the kind of kid who always gave his all. I missed all of 2 games from injuries in years and had played through all kinds of injuries. I never would have thought that I had to ask if I could sit out a game, when I could barely walk.

As a teenager I realized this was horrible leadership. Unfortunately, it was not the only time I would see a “leader” treat their team member this same way. For decades I’ve watched and experienced leaders who are more about control than they are about making people successful.

Punishing a team member, and possibly the team, is the worst kind of leadership in my book. It’s selfish. It’s disrespectful. It’s childish! I lost any respect and loyalty I had for that coach. At the very least, he had a teachable moment and he blew it.

If ever as a leader you decide to punish a team member, get out of leadership. If not to save yourself from your own misery, at least do it for those you want to make miserable!

Question: Have you ever worked for a punishing “leader”?

  • Joe Lalonde

    I’ve worked for some pretty bad leaders but nothing to that point.

  • Dale Powers

    I worked for an individual once who refused to give direction. His predecessor was always very clear about the overall goals; he left the accomplishment of those to me. This guy was going in a completely different direction, refused to give anyone indication of what HIS goals were, and then chewed you out for not reading his mind. He fired/chased off/forced retired (get ready) over 70 employees and volunteers over a three year period. What a charming guy, right?

  • Larry Carter

    It’s bad enough to do this to adults, but a kid?

  • Michelle Sealey

    We would have weekly production meetings that would last for 4 hours. This was punishment. All issues that came up during the week rather is was customer and or vendor related it was discussed in this meeting. We never had solutions going into the meeting. So it turned into 15-20 people talking in circles with no purpose. Free for all. Everyone would have an opinion and everyone wanted to be heard. We know better now. Thanks to other great leaders taking the time to coach and mentor us over the last 3 years. We have a leadership meeting every week to discuss our agenda for our weekly production meeting with the team. We go in with an agenda and we keep it to 1.5 hours at the most. We respect their time and now our meeting doesn’t feel like punishment!

  • Jon Stallings

    Several years ago I was hired to supervise the IT help desk for a furniture retailer. My first year review came and my direct manager gave me a great review. Her boss turned the review over and took me to the wood shed. Needless to say I was confused. Another year later that same VP (Not my boss) put me on probation for some very vague reasons. I was given 90 days to improve. Over the 90s days I met every single requirement. My pay was not changed but I was demoted anyway. The guy they pun in my position was the son of a big regional manager. Needless to say I soon found other employment. On my exit interview I found out HR never new I was placed on probation. A great lesson on what good leadership does not look like.

    • Chris LoCurto

      WOW!!! UHHHHH….WOW!!!! Speechless brother!

  • Joshua Rivers

    Not communicating WHY he was punish you adds insult to injury (no pun intended). As a leader, communication should be a top priority. when someone acts inappropriately, especially when it is out of character, there should be immediate communication. A punishment or negative consequence may be necessary still, but communication should come first.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Absolutely! If he would have told me as soon as I said I was to injured to play, then I would understand. Great stuff brother.

  • Lily Kreitinger

    I’ve shared my story here before about the “horrible boss” who had severe control issues, called me off hours and on weekends and tried to fire me and press false charges of stealing company property, so I wouldn’t get a severance package. Now I know that all that comes from those who did the same to him at some point in his life. Being a great leader means you have to “kill the weeds” in your root system and identify why you like to belittle others. I’m willing to bet it comes from insecurity and a sense of worthlessness.

    • Chris LoCurto


      • Lily Kreitinger

        I’m a quick learner ;)

        • Joel Fortner

          I prefer the weed eater with the saw blade. Gets the weeds and the little trees too. :)

  • Paul Jolicoeur

    Yeah, in high school I worded a second job with a construction company. My boss would tell me I was fired a few times a week because I wasn’t doing something fast enough or in his way. I would start to leave and than he would tell me to get back to work! Definitely glad it was just a summer job.

    • Chris LoCurto

      HAHAHA!!! What a trip Paul!

  • Andy Holt

    Being an effective leader requires you to use the right “tools” for a given situation. Just like any mechanic who can choose a given tool for a particular job…if the mechanic uses a 36″ pipe wrench to loosen a 1/2″ nut, he WILL loosen it but because the pipe wrench is NOT the best tool for the job, he will likely use more effort to do the job and the nut will most likely get messed up in the process. Words matter. If a leader does or says the wrong thing, it often has lifetime consequences for the team member who was on the receiving end of the 36″ pipe wrench! Leaders…check your heart before you say or do something that affects others. Your words weigh 500 pounds…be careful where you lay them!

    • Chris LoCurto

      Preach it Andy!

  • Steven Tessler

    The entire Navy isn’t like this… I know you know that. It just that many are trained by the ones that lead us.
    More is caught then taught as you know.
    So most are drawn to those most like themselves and it’s a vicious cycle.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Isn’t that crazy? I’m glad you were someone others could look to.

      • Carla MusarraLeonard

        I can vouch for Steven. I worked civil service at Naval commands for many years. I had one great leader in my 9 years of service. The rest were the punishing leaders. The worst one used to tell us that if we didn’t like the way he ran the department, we were free to quit because we could always be replaced. I can’t tell you the damaging effect that had on our morale. The good side of all that I learned so much about leadership through this guy. That is, I learned what NOT to do :) As always, great post Chris. Bravo!

        • Joel Fortner

          Wow. I’m sure they’d never seen effective leadership modeled well. Sad.

        • Chris LoCurto

          Thanks for the compliment Carla, and I’m so sorry you had to deal with that kind of leadership.

  • Jamey Beard

    Small minded leaders limit potential and drive the team to mediocrity.

  • Steven Tessler

    Unfortunately this happens all to often in the Navy. At every command I served at I was “lead” by this type of leader. When I was promoted I strived not to be this way.

    • Chris LoCurto

      I hate to hear that about our Navy. :( I’m glad to hear you overcame that! And by the way, your Gravitar always cracks me up. :)

    • Clark Paton

      I retired as a Naval Officer after 22 years, and I can attest that a large portion of our leaders do not really know how to lead. One boss would slam open the door, storm in the room every morning, and demand at the top of his lungs to know what was going on. Another, who was very short, purposely targeted tall people for his ire. Still another would walk around the office spaces 1/2 hour before quitting time, asking about the whereabouts of every person who was not at their desk. In contrast, the best boss I ever had was actually an Air Force officer, who would start out every discussion concerning a difficult situation with the words, “Let’s just do the right thing.” While I learned lessons from all of them, the latter boss was one of the few that I learned positive leadership skills from.

  • Josh Lawson

    There’s a difference in a “punishing” leader and a “pushing” leader. They can both say the same thing but one is trying to make you better and the other is trying to put you in your place. I discipline my boys, but it’s to make them better in life. I give constructive feedback to my team but it’s to take them to a higher level.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Amen Josh! Great input!

  • Matt Ham

    I had a situation earlier this year where I missed a deadline delivery which was purely circumstantial. It wasn’t that it didn’t get done, the wrong copy was mailed in (human error). There is a small ‘late’ charge that accompanies this. Unbeknownst to me, an additional financial ‘punishment’ had been arranged for missing this deadline. In short, I was forced to pay this additional, undisclosed fee which was actually more than my commission itself. When questioned, I was deemed ‘arrogant’ for thinking the rules didn’t apply and the comment was, “It won’t happen again will it?”

    The good news is, I’ve been asked to partner with my church to create/lead a 12-week leadership course for college Juniors and Seniors as they prepare for the real world.

    All of these experiences are culminating in great teaching tools and hopefully will help create better leaders in the world around me.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Great life experience to prepare those kids! LOL