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Good boss, bad boss -Different leadership styles after the fire.

Dear Readers,

The wide range of human behavior never ceases to amaze me!


Yesterday I was talking to a someone who works for a large Santa Rosa organization that was severely impacted by the fires.

He was complaining about his manager, the new executive director.  The executive director was a fairly new hire who had  moved to the community three months back for this position.

His style of management was authoritative, task oriented and demanding. The hiring team was not looking for a touch-feely type as they believed the staff needed more discipline.

He was hired to replace someone that was looked at as lax, friendly and well-liked,  but not what the organization thought it needed to move to a new, professional level.

When the fire destroyed much of the organization’s valuable property, this boss demanded that all employees come to work full time and overtime, regardless of their personal losses and demands. He wanted everyone to be 150% committed to the team and to the organizations, no questions asked.

He demanded that everyone participate in cleaning up and rebuilding asap. Two employees who had approved and scheduled vacations were told to change plans.

In fact, when he gathered the staff, this boss told the group to put personal feelings aside, it was time to focus exclusively on bringing all their energies to work! Listening and responding empathetically was not his style and he wanted to see results, not share feelings.

One person told me it was shocking to him that this man was actually  gleeful;  sharing with the group that now he had an opportunity to rebuild in his own vision. He seemed to have no regard or interest in the losses, fears and even anguish of some of his employees. In fact,  he was disappointed when his employees showed any pushback or need to express negative, sad emotions. Just a week after the fire he told the group that “Grieving is now officially over.” And this is in sharp contrast to the input  I  got from the psychologist (see last posting) that processing this trauma could take 6-24 months and needs to be recognized. Since the fire, this boss has lost half a dozen key employees who were so upset by his leadership style that they felt they could no longer work there. Whatever gains he made in working the remaining staff to the bone, he lost in the resignation of excellent, long term employees and group morale. This is not a good example to follow.


Another large employer in Santa Rosa had a leader who represents a good way to lead after a community disaster. This leader understands the complexity and pressures that a community wide devastation brings about and that the human dimension needs to be considered in managing through devastation.

From the top, he let all managers and employees know that they would be a KIND and SMART company. They would be KIND in providing time, money and any and all kinds of resources to their employees as much as they could. Employees who lost their homes were given money to bridge the time before their insurance money kicked in, a place to go for warmth, shelter and companionship and community resources that would connect them to new housing options. Conversely, employees who were safe with homes spared and energy to help were given opportunities to collect clothing, household items and gather to sort and offer these things to the less fortunate in their company. Their energies were activated appropriately and wisely. They were told to take good care of themselves, their families and their friends and colleagues. They were told they matter and their emotional lives, too, were important. Counselors where brought in to explain and help people cope with the disaster. These employees are proud to work for this company. This wise and kind leadership will pay off in the long run with deeper bonds of loyalty to their management, to the company, and to one another.

Which boss are you and which boss do you work for?

Let’s make this a learning community that only gets better after it is challenged.

Let’s learn from the GOOD and let’s see the BAD ways pass on as ill-fated mistakes.

Onward in good leadership,

Coach Joan

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