How to Work for a Leader You Don’t Believe In

It is a sad truth that you never have to look far to find someone working for a leader they don’t believe in. (It may even be you.) People lose faith in leaders for lots of reasons: broken trust, lack of confidence, or just plain disagreement.

If you’re working for a leader you don’t believe in, you’re probably feeling that your path to success will be especially difficult. Most people will tell you to get a different job–and if that option’s open to you, it’s worth thinking about. But sometimes you don’t have a choice but to stay where you are, at least for the short term.

That doesn’t mean you have to lose hope, however. I believe our most difficult struggles and challenging times are when we grow the most. When you’re stuck in a bad situation, you can always commit to learning as much as possible from it. And it’s possible to survive, and even excel, under incompatible leadership.

Here are some actions you can take if you find yourself not believing in your leader and you still want to succeed:

Think about your own purpose.

In a difficult situation, it’s natural to want to complain about others–especially the person whose leadership you hold responsible. But when you focus on others, you lose sight of yourself. When times get tough, go within–be very clear in defining for yourself what you want to accomplish and how you want to succeed. Concentrate on yourself instead of looking at what is wrong with others.

Don’t let it get personal.

It’s hard not to get emotional when situations are difficult, but you don’t have to let them get personal. Manage your emotions is an especially important skill when you’re constantly challenged. It is important not to gossip, attack, or speak badly about your boss–it reflects poorly on you, and if anything makes them a more sympathetic figure. If you’re in a situation where you need to speak up, keep it factual. Attack only ideas, never people.
Become a sponge. Learn as much as you can. I believe that we can learn something from everyone we meet, and the more stressful and challenging the times, the more we can gain from them. Remain open and see what you can soak up. You may or may not gain great wisdom, but you’ll certainly learn something.

Take control where you can.

When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control he way you respond; that is where your power is.

Practice empathy.

Remember that behind every bad behavior is a person with specific motivations for what they do and a story leading to who they are. When you can understand the “why” behind bad leadership, it can reduce your frustration. Allow the fact that there might be a very human reason for malfunctioning leadership to elicit your empathy.

Do your best no matter what.

While you may be dreaming of your next job every day, getting out depends largely on the results you can show from the job you have now. Even if your boss makes you miserable, your leader sabotages you, or your manager frustrates you, your self-interest still lies in doing your best in the situation you’re in. Learn to push yourself; work hard to be the best. Will it be easy? No. Worthwhile? Definitely

Be discreet.

Resist the impulse to say or do something you can’t take back. Once you are seen as a negative influence it’s very difficult to change that perception. Become a diplomat, because discretion keeps everyone’s integrity intact. Tactful action and thoughtful behavior are paramount.

Raise your standards.

You earn the right to hold others to high standards by meeting them yourself. If you want to live up to your potential, you have to raise your standards. Where bad leadership goes low, learn to go high–raise the bar and do everything to reach it daily.

Lead from where you are.

No matter what position you have, you are always a leader. Lead from where you are and do it with grace and effectiveness. Set out to lead by example and always rise above the dysfunction. This is invaluable.

If you are working with a leader you don’t believe in, there are times that will be difficult and frustrating. But remember, the challenges you face today could end up being the most important lessons of your life.



N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Mark Balaam

    13. Apr, 2019

    Hi Lolly,
    I especially like the lead from where you are – exhibiting the right leadership qualities is very powerful. It also helps protect your self worth if you feel brow beaten.

    Reply to this comment

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