What Leadership Advice Should You Ignore?

“I don’t care who it is, but you need to fire one of the people reporting to you.”

This was the advice I received from a CEO I knew when I became General Manager of a division of a company. I asked my CEO friend why.

Picture: Depositphotos

He said, “That’s how you will instill fear in your team. Everyone will know you mean business when you fire someone.”

I got the idea that people will take you seriously if you fire someone, but it seemed so arbitrary and mean spirited to me. If that was how you become a great leader, then I guess I would never become a great leader.

I passed on my CEO friend’s advice. You should too.

There’s plenty of other bad leadership advice I’ve received over the years including these nuggets:

A. Don’t trust anyone.

The advice here was given to me from another well-meaning CEO. He was trying to emphasize that you can’t trust anyone.

And during the paranoid early stage of my career, I ate up his advice. I didn’t trust anyone, and, as a result, I didn’t communicate anything to anyone.

All that horrible piece of advice did was hurt me. But it did lead to this beautiful exchange with one of my peers named Peter:

Peter: “Brett, you’re a mushroom manager.”

Me: “What’s that?”

Peter: “You feed people shit and expect something to grow.”

I had to hold in my laughter. But, he was right. I was feeding people shit and expecting something good to happen.

B. You shouldn’t delegate.

This beauty came during a review early in my career. “You’re the biggest delegator I have,” Mark said. “You shouldn’t delegate as much as you do to your team.”


Hopefully you’ve surrounded yourself with really good people. Those people aren’t window dressing. They are there for a reason.

You want to get the most out of your team, and you want your team to grow. You also want to work on, as much as possible, the things that only you can do.

The way you accomplish that is through delegating as much as you can to your team. That’s how you gain leverage.

Fortunately for me, I only worked for this person for about one year before he moved on.

C. You want your teams to compete against each other.

Okay. This wasn’t really advice I got, but it was a change in management philosophy that an excellent CEO I worked for, Jack Gifford the founding CEO of Maxim, decided to undertake.

Gifford’s idea was that the various business units would compete against each other for markets, customers, and products. The result was pure chaos.

Our customers didn’t know what was going on, and neither did our sales team. You’d have a meeting, and then it would get canceled.

Or worse yet, you’d actually meet with the customer who would tell you, “I just met with you guys last week. Why am I meeting with you again?”

Gifford, as I said, was an excellent CEO, but even an excellent CEO has a bad idea. This not only drove me insane, but hurt the company’s business.

Or there is my personal favorite piece of bad advice…

D. Martyrdom is good for you.

This horrible piece of advice was given to me by probably the worst leader I ever worked for.

I had been hired by “Bob” to turn around an underperforming division of his company. Early on in my time at this company, I met with Bob in his office.

Bob explained that I should expect all my employees to be martyrs for the company. Then he added that I should be expected to be a martyr for him.

“Martyrdom is good,” he said.

“But I’m dead. How can this be good?”

“The company will be better off if you are a martyr.”

Sure thing. Asking someone to destroy their career for you is the ultimate in hypocrisy.

All I have to say to Bob is, “How do you sleep?”

For more, read: What Are The 19 Wishes Every Founder Needs Granted?

I work with startup CEOs to help them grow their businesses . I built several businesses from $0 to >$100M. Learn more at www.brettjfox.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store