Seven Traits of your Favorite HORROR-ible Bosses

We all know the traits of great leadership: Inspiration. Empathy. Teamwork. Vision. Qualities like these embolden the workplace and increase the self-esteem and self-confidence of employees, ultimately leading to the success and survival of the organization. Like any good company, characters in Horror films share that same desire for existence. Because whether it’s the end of the fiscal year or the end of the movie, there’s essentially only one goal: Survive. And a good leader will help you do it.

But what about horrible leadership? The effects of bad management can range from the routine to the catastrophic: At best, Mondays can loom like the dreadful approach of an ancient curse. And at worst, Market capitalization can swing downward like some pendulum from Poe’s Pit. Milestones can be missed, product undelivered, employee retention spiraled, and a company’s very being hanging in the balance. And if it should crumble, it could mean a disaster from which no sequel could save it.

Nowhere is bad leadership more physically dangerous than in a Horror movie. What if the Guide you’re following really believes that dark castle on the mountain looks like a great place to ride out the storm? What if your Captain has decided that investigating distress signals on a distant and uncharted planet is your next mission. What if everyone who attended the 10am meeting suddenly stands up, eyes glazed and walks in lock-step, towards a humming silver mother-ship. Bad leadership can spread through an organization like a zombie virus, infecting each decision and each employee until eventually, it’s World War CEO.

Recognizing where leaders in a Horror story — and real life — fall short can mean the difference between being alive at the end, or terminated in the first act. For Managers, knowing your strengths and shortcomings will allow you to develop those that work and eliminate those that don’t, keeping both your career and your crew alive. No smart leader wants to be someone everyone fears, disrespects or distrusts. In Horror movies they have a name for that: Monster. And monsters belong in the movies. So, whether you are a Boss, have a Boss, or are on your way to being one, identifying and eliminating these poor leadership traits are essential for Horror characters, and Character in general. So, read and learn. Employees are counting on you to help them survive the horror, at least until Friday.

Kiefer Sutherland, The Lost Boys - 1987

Kiefer Sutherland, The Lost Boys - 1987

THE DISINGENUOUS ONE:

Of all the residents in Santa Carla, CA — or within your own company — David, the Vampire gang leader from 1987’s The Lost Boys, has picked you. He heaps praise, invites you to his secret lair, offers you wine, noodles and insight to the inner workings of the organization. But beware, you’re not the Guest, you’re the meal. This kind of Manager is the first to back-stab and abandon. Whether it’s under the bus, or onto the stake, this fiend will throw you there faster than you can say, “Maggots, Michael. You’re eating maggots.

IT, from the 1990 television mini-series

IT, from the 1990 television mini-series

THE LIAR:

Shape-shifting. Manipulation. Deceit. Am I describing your Boss? Let’s hope not, because these traits perfectly describe the demonic clown-creature from Stephen King’s classic 1986 Horror novel, IT. Whether this jester is luring the children of Derry, Maine to an underground lair or cooking the books for an IPO, lack of transparency in any leader can fuel distrust. And whether it’s a growing boy or girl, or a growing Company, rumor and dishonesty can lead to abandonment. Employees appreciate knowing where things stand, so don’t clown around. It’s always better to rally around fact over fiction.

Jack Nicholson, The Shining - 1980

Jack Nicholson, The Shining - 1980

THE WORKAHOLIC:

All work and no play doesn’t just create a possessed ax-murderer with a penchant for Johnny Carson, it leads to inevitable employee burn-out faster than you can say, “Here’s Johnny!” A leader with intense passion and ownership can lose sight of empathy and end up demanding the same level of 24/7 commitment from staff. If only Jack Torrance, the haunted Father figure from Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film,The Shining had fostered a stable work/life balance. Because when it comes to corporate culture, everyone prefers sane over insane.

Boris Karloff, The Mummy - 1932

Boris Karloff, The Mummy - 1932

THE HISTORIAN:

Ah, the good old days. No one relishes the past more than a mummified Egyptian priest desperate for resurrection and a Manager suspicious of the new guy. Change is scary, but forward-thinking leaders don’t get wrapped up in yesterday. They know that innovation built the Pyramids and gumption like that applies today. Overly conservative leaders slow to adapt will miss opportunities and lose employees to the growing competition. Like Boris Karloff in the Universal classic, The Mummy, leaders who live in the past insulated from top trends and ideas, will find themselves and their Company so deep in the tomb, the knock of opportunity becomes the thud of a coffin.

Robert Shaw, Jaws - 1975

Robert Shaw, Jaws - 1975

THE BULLY:

You may think “I will chew you up and spit you out!” is an ugly threat from a Great White Shark, but you’d be wrong. Unfortunately, dialogue like this isn’t always confined to the deep. It can surface at an office near you, eviscerating employee morale and shaking any good company to its core. At least Sharks eat what they kill; this arrogant Manager enjoys the quick bite, relishing intimidation over the big picture. Unless you’re a 20-foot giant circling Quint’s boat, The Orca in the classic 1975 thriller, JAWS, leading by fear is not an effective way to manage. The best leaders are those who maintain an even temper. They accept blame, give credit and remove ego. These leaders understand that we’re all in the same boat, and even though we may need a bigger one, it’s up to us to work together and make it back to shore. Instilling fear in your employees may give you a quick rush, but it drowns loyalty. And smart managers know loyalty is a precious resource when the sinking starts and the sharks circle.

Peter Cushing, The Curse of Frankenstein - 1957 

Peter Cushing, The Curse of Frankenstein - 1957 

THE KNOW-IT-ALL:

Sure, Dr. Frankenstein from Mary Shelley’s classic novel knows the knee-bone is connected to the thigh-bone, but is he listening to a staff hip to the latest in Immunotherapy? Does he demand trust and attention from faithful Igor, but spurns his minion’s new idea and insight? The best leaders don’t have to the smartest person in the room. They know that coaching employees is essential, but being curious and confident enough to ask questions and learn from them is just as important. Hunchbacked or not, the smart employees you trust enough to hire don’t turn into mindless lab assistants at day one. Engage them. Use lightning if you have to, but keep them excited about your Company’s mission and it’s amazing how much non-stop knowledge they’ll bring to your table. Or gurney. Or slab. Great managers understand that the more they are ready to grow, the more of a role model they’ll be. So go ahead, Doctor. Let Igor hold the scalpel. What’s the worst that could happen? After all, it’s already dead.

Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho — 1960

Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho — 1960

THE MICRO-MANAGER:

Hovering. Controlling. Obsessive. Suffocating. These words perfectly describe Mother, the stone-cold matriarch ruling her son, Norman Bates from beyond the grave in Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece. In the Boardroom, at the office, even in the shower, micro-management like Mother’s can show up anywhere and in many forms, but most typically in a Manager’s incessant dictation of an employee’s every task. The line between constructive criticism and controlling condemnation can be as blurry as Norman’s Mother/Son relationship, but this bad Manager’s style is more overbearing than organized. Most Micro-managers probably don’t even know they’re doing it, but left unchecked, such intense scrutiny can seriously harm employee morale and productivity. Before employees have had enough and check out, pull back the curtain. Good leaders concentrate on strategy, highlight priorities and let go of the minutia. They know their staff will appreciate it, and so will Mother.

LIKE A BOSS

Just as no one wants to be a bad Leader, no one wants to be led badly. Especially if they’re in a Horror movie. Haunted castles, spooky swamps, and dilapidated motels are not places for ego and selfishness. Getting out alive requires teamwork, innovation, trust and most importantly, earned influence. Without these, Leaders and employees will quickly find that neither of them are making it to sunrise, yet alone the weekend. But by avoiding these seven traits and having the commitment to lead the team out of the Horror film alive, any Manager can redirect and provide motivation that will ensure survival — to payday and beyond.

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