How to Succeed with a Lousy Boss

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I receive emails and questions after presentations like, “How can I manage up, I have a lousy boss?”

Jimmy Collins, retired president of Chick-fil-A and author of, Creative Followership, doesn’t wait for people to ask him about lousy bosses. He asks them.

My conversation with Jimmy rocked my world. He said things like:

“Seeking Leadership roles never produced anything for me. When I chose the follower role there was no end to what I could accomplish.”

“Forget about leadership roles. What matters is what you can accomplish.”

We also talked about bad bosses.

Regarding lazy bosses:

Jimmy stands in front of groups and asks, “How many work for someone who doesn’t like to do very much?”

People look at each other and wonder if he’s for real. They’re hesitant to raise their hand. But, Jimmy’s serious. Eventually people begin acknowledging their frustration with a boss who doesn’t do much.

Jimmy asks, “Do you realize how fortunate you are?”

Principle 3 in, Creative Followership:

“Do what your boss does not like to do.”

Jimmy said, “The less your boss likes to do, the better for you.”

When people asked Jimmy what he did at Chick-fil-A he said, “I do what Truett Cathy doesn’t like to do.” (No connection intended between Truett and lousy bosses. Principle 3 applies to all types of bosses.)

It worked for Jimmy. He became the chief operating officer and president of Chick-Fil-A. All the while, Jimmy refuses to call himself a leader. He persistently says, “I’m a follower of Truett Cathy.”


Jimmy said, “Working for a lousy boss means one is in a learning-rich environment … negative experiences … are excellent character-building opportunities.”

Stop fixing lousy bosses; grow yourself.

Jimmy on:

Twitter: @theJimmyCollins

What are the best ways to deal with lousy bosses?