The Prey of Lousy Leaders

Karl Bimshas
5 min readOct 19, 2022

It starts with convenience and familiarity. The questionable leader is charming and fun to be around, or they may have helped you during tough times, so you feel indebted.

Soon, they want you to do special favors for them. They are acts you don’t feel comfortable doing, but you talk yourself into them because you don’t want to cause disappointment. In a confounding mental game, you warp the “get out of your comfort zone” mantra into betraying your values, a destructive choice that becomes easier with repetition.

Next, you begin to betray old friendships — convinced that people are holding you back, are unsupportive, or have an agenda counter to yours. Caring about you isn’t a strong enough reason because now you have surrounded yourself with others who tell you that caring is a weakness that prevents you from making real money. These conversations with your new “friends” occur over bottomless early-afternoon drinks; their wisdom spewed between slurred speech and bursts of drunken laughter. You pick up the tab because you appreciate their insights and attention.

You achieve a few financial successes, but it’s not enough. You’re in a hole, so it doesn’t feel like progress. You’re impatient instead of disciplined, and your ambition morphs into greed. You are less flexible and more opportunistic. Everything is about making another buck, increasing your power., or both.

Connections to your past dwindle, and, like Citizen Kane’s “Rosebud,” a sole touchstone remains that reveals your true self; a piece of jewelry, a gifted book, a beloved pet, or an old set of tools. It vanishes, and you mourn, not for losing the item, but for losing your inner goodness and the direction you could have taken but chose not to. It’s at this hour that your transformation is complete. You embrace the ease and cowardliness of lousy leadership because you believe you’re too far down the path and cannot return.

It’s thought that the potential to save thousands of lives is what motivates some medical professionals and researchers. More often, it’s about the one they couldn’t — someone very dear to them, who, despite all effort, perished too soon.

In my work helping people to be effective leaders without becoming jerks, I sometimes encounter those who reject the term leadership. Their belief system won’t allow them to step up, face the burdens, or accept the responsibility. It’s disappointing, but reluctant leadership can be as harmful as lousy leadership, so perhaps it’s for the best.

The heart-wrenching tragedy occurs when someone with a powerful, servant leadership mentality, warm heart, and giving spirit repeatedly allows themselves to be taken advantage of by lousy and callous leaders. While it’s difficult to see those you care about flounder in any abusive or highly leveraged relationship, it’s unbearable to see them, bit by bit, grow blind to the impact of their decisions. Incapable of breaking a destructive pattern, frenetic momentum builds, and then with abrupt ease, they become lousy leaders themselves. They harp on weaknesses. They obfuscate their decision-making. They hold a ridged adherence to the “you’re either with us or against us” trope.

After they cross that Rubicon, there is little I can do, save sob for the loss and the knowledge that a new adversary is born. Despite the pain accompanying this rare event, it reinforces part of my mission to challenge, disrupt, and reduce the negative influence of lousy leaders.

Falling prey to lousy leaders is easy. Indifference and inaction attract them. Resist that temptation, lest we meet in unfavorable conditions.

The Wave

The wave doesn’t care if you’re standing in front of it.

It doesn’t speed up to try and knock you over.

It doesn’t slow down in an attempt to spare you.

A wave will do what it does whether you’re there or not.

You decide your reaction to the wave.

You can run away; you can stand firm and face it; you can frolic, scream in terror, or squeal in delight. You can surf it, ride with it, or punch at it and see what that will do.

The wave does not care. It is not out to get you. It doesn’t feel like you owe it something. The wave can neither ignore you nor lavish praise.

The wave exists with unrelenting frequency. Sometimes it gently rolls in; other times, it crashes with a deafening roar.

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Karl Bimshas

Boston-bred and California-chilled Leadership Adviser | Writer | Podcast Host who helps busy professionals who want to manage better and lead well.