How To Serve Bad Leaders

bad leaders. Bad leaders come in all different varieties: The Micro-Manager, The Blame-Shifter, The Tyrant, The Vague Communicatior, The One Track Mind, add yours here… At one time, maybe more than once, you have served a bad leader. We’ve been talking this past month about #leadingup, but how are you supposed to lead up when the person “up” is a terrible leader?
Let’s get one thing straight: leading up is on you, not them. Who, what, how they are is not something you can control. And when you are under someone who seems to be terrible at their leadership, it can be incredibly frustrating. You may be reading these articles asking yourself, “how can I change them?” I’m here to tell you, “YOU CAN’T!” All you can control is you.
So, here’s three quick tips / reminders when leading up to a “bad” leader:

1. Work on “You”

It’s tempting to focus on the other person, but you can’t control them, no matter how much you complain to other people about them. Because, let’s face it, you’re probably not complaining to their face, right? I mean, you still have a job under this person… So work on yourself. Do all that you can to support and be a blessing. Since all you can control is yourself, make sure that your righteousness is never tainted, even if you feel self-righteous.
Make it all about “them”, and you will fail or get yourself fired.

2. Remember God Is In Control

Chances are, God knows this person is in leadership, and He probably noticed your frustrations at some point as well. So give it up to Him. Pray for this person regularly, and not the “bolt of lightning” prayer. Ask God to make you an instrument of blessing for that person. Seek divine insight into their process so you can work with that.
Do not start expecting God to remove them “any minute now…”, but treat them as an anointed leader placed by God until He says otherwise. Read 1 Samuel 18 for inspiration.

3. Talk About It . . . With Them!

Have you tried talking it out? I mean really talking it through. Like, ask why they would say “this-thing-that-hurt-me”. Try asking what exactly happened the last time you got on their bad side, and give them a chance to respond without your defensiveness. Seek to know their heart, their motivations. And no matter what you think, you do not know why they do what they do. So you have to ask.
Don’t give up when it doesn’t solve everything right away. Be persistent, in love, and make it known that you want to work at fixing whatever it is you are doing wrong in their eyes. You just may find that not only does this increase your arsenal of ways to work with people, but you might deepen your friendship here (or build a new one) in the process. And best of all, you may lead them to change as they examine their motives and actions and realize the effect they have on you.

Have you tried any of these things? How did it work out for you?
Are you going through some stuff? I’d love to pray with you and for you! Share your experiences in a comment!



  1. Good thoughts. I would add "don't compare" yourself to them. It will either cause you to resent them or put in less effort since you can "get away with it." Good stuff, Brian.
    • So true, Keith! Comparing ourselves to them totally short-circuits the first point of working on yourself. If we compare ourselves to others, it's easy to get complacent. But since the standard, the benchmark, is Jesus... we are never finished, never good enough, and always in need of His grace. But also being transformed daily from glory to glory! (2 Corinthians 3). So easy to lose sight of the goal here...
  2. Good thoughts. I would add "don't compare" yourself to them. It will either cause you to resent them or put in less effort since you can "get away with it." Good stuff, Brian.
  3. I totally connect and would love prayer for all of the above :) the Lord is refining me so much and I don't want to forfeit the reward God has in store
  4. Read this at just the right time - it can be frustrating and so easy to take our focus off Jesus onto the 'situation'. Thanks for the timely encouragement and reminder that i need to focus on how I hold myself - instead of hoping they might change.
    • I'm sorry to hear that you needed this... but glad you could get some perspective on the situation. And, while you outwardly (and inwardly) focus on yourself, there's nothing wrong with praying for them / hoping they change. It seems like it's sort of like the Love Dare, where as you focus on your own stuff and strive for righteousness, it tends to increase righteousness on their part, too.

Leave a Reply

Main Menu