Having worked in large corporate environments for most of my 30-year career, I’ve seen many examples of both good and bad leadership.

The difference between working for a good boss or a bad boss can make or break your career (or at least waste a few years of your life).

The challenge is that you can’t ask your potential employer if they are good or bad because most people believe they are good leaders since they are unaware of the dark side of their reactive natures.

While it may be true that they have the best intentions and be terrific people, in reality, they have what Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams (Bob and Bill), authors of “Mastering Leadership,” call a reactive leadership style.

75% of Leaders Have A Reactive Leadership Style

According to Bob and Bill, 75% of leaders have a reactive leadership style and fall into one of three broad categories …

Controlling Leaders

Controlling leaders lead from their gut.

They are driven to succeed and have gotten ahead through ambition, setting high standards, and the need for everything to be perfect. The dark side of controlling leaders is that it’s often “my way or the highway.”

Their identity and self-worth are based on getting results, no matter what the cost, which can lead to damaged relationships due to their controlling nature. This is the most common type of reactive leader as most organizations reward this style because it gets results.

Protecting Leaders

Protecting leaders lead from their head.

They have achieved success by working very hard to be the smartest person in the room. The dark side of protecting leaders is that they can be overly critical, distant, and arrogant. They tend to look down on others and have a sense of superiority.

The identity and self-worth of protecting leaders are based on being right and on maintaining the façade they tend to build a wall around themselves and their teams. You will find protecting leaders in gatekeeper roles due to their deep subject knowledge.

Complying Leaders

Complying leaders lead from their heart.

They have achieved success by complying with the expectations of others rather than acting on what they want. The dark side of complying leaders is that they avoid conflict with others due to their pleasing and passive nature.

The identity and self-worth of complying leaders are based on fitting in and being liked, as they conform to what others want by sacrificing their desires. Sayings like “don’t rock the boat” or “keep your head down” are the motto of complying leaders. Most silos in organizations are run by protecting leaders due to their love of process and bureaucracy.

The One Question

The challenge we have is that 75% of leaders have a reactive leadership style (either controlling, protecting, or complying) and most leaders don’t realize that they have a reactive leadership style.

The good news is that there is one question that we can ask to determine if you are working for a reactive leader.

This question is … “I’m curious, what are you doing to be more self-aware? For example, do you have a regular mindfulness practice?”

If their response is negative, for example, “Mindfulness, who has time for that,” or “what new age crap is this,” then you are dealing with a reactive leader. You will want to avoid working for this person at all costs.

However, if their response is positive, for example, “Yes, I have a daily meditation practice,” or “Yes, I’m working on being more self-aware,” then you’ve found your mindful leader. You will want to move this person to the top of your list.

The New Standard of Leadership

I think it’s time to hold the people we work for to a higher standard.

We can do this by refusing to work for (or be lead by) people with a reactive leadership style and actively look for mindful leaders.

A common trait of mindful leaders is that they are all committed to growing as leaders and developing leaders around them. Mindful leaders will have a regular mindfulness practice which they use to build personal self-awareness.

Look for positive habits that include mediation, journaling, and reading. Other signs may consist of having a personal development plan, taking assessments and courses, or having a leadership coach.

The critical thing that you are looking for to is, is the leader actively working on becoming a better leader?

Mindful Leaders Call To Action

Regardless of what type of leader you work for, you can set yourself up for future success by practicing mindful leadership.

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