How to Work with a Fair Weather Leader

Do you work for a fair weather leader?Do you work for a fair weather leader?
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Do you work for a fair weather leader?

Do you work for a fair weather leader?

If you’re employed by a corporation, a not-for-profit, or a government agency, in whatever role whether executive or not, you’ll know that the leadership style of the person you report to can be crucial to your happiness at work, your productivity and your sense of achievement, perhaps even your sense of self-worth.

So I would not wish on you a fair weather leader.

What’s a fair weather leader?

I first became aware of the term “fair weather leader” when as a senior executive I was sharing with a friend some frustration I was feeling in dealing with my chief executive at the time, who was sometimes great to work with and at other times seriously less than great.

“Sounds like you have a fair weather leader,” says my friend.

Asked to clarify, he explains that a fair weather leader, is one who is with you all the way when things are going well, but  when things go awry fails to support you, and might even undermine you.

As soon as he said it, I realized that fitted the situation perfectly. And then I reflected on various people I had reported to over the years and saw that several of them had definitely earned the fair weather tag, although at the same time I had been privileged to have had leaders of real moral courage and high self-esteem, who would stand with their team just as keenly when the going was rough as when it was smooth.

A way to work with a fair weather leader

Back to the issue in that conversation I was having with my friend.

“So what can I do?” I asked. “Is there an effective way to handle this situation and not be buried by it?”

“Yes,” he said, and proceeded to give me one of the best pieces of advice I ever received.

With fair weather leaders, he said, you have to understand that they only want to be leaders for the kudos and benefits. They don’t accept that the leader has to be there for the tough times and setbacks too.

The key to working with these types, he went on, is that when you are reporting you use “we” for success and “I” for difficulties. In other words, you include the leader in the success stories and for the setbacks and failures, like the ancient Romans you fall on your sword.

Example of success report. “We’ve had a great third quarter. Profits up 15%, almost zero staff turnover and various other indicators all on the bright side.”

Example of problem report. “I have a problem. Sales are down 15% this quarter and things are not looking much better for the next quarter.”

Resist the temptation to bring him/her into it at this point by using “we”. You may just mean “All the rest of us, not you the leader”, but you can be confident a fair weather leader will hear that as implicating him/her in the creation of the problem.

Tune in for the next week on Thursday!

In the second post of this two-part contribution I’ll explain that in a little more detail and also address the question “What if you’ve been a fair weather leader yourself?”.

About the Author

Des Walsh works with executives in professional services firms and the mid market, helping his clients accelerate their learning curves to take advantage of new possibilities in their markets.

Having led his own business for over 20 years and with previous CEO roles in business and for major government-backed projects, Des has first hand knowledge of the challenges of leadership. An early adopter in social media and recognized strategic thinker in the field, he can help you navigate effectively and safely the new, connected economy created by the convergence of dramatic changes in society, work and technology. Co-author of LinkedIn for Recruiting, one of the first books published about LinkedIn, he is well placed to help in the crucial contemporary leadership task of building connections and engagement with diverse stakeholder communities. His goal as a coach is to elicit the greatness in his clients. If you are looking for support in meeting the challenges of leadership in the connected economy, contact Des via email at to arrange a no-obligation, confidential conversation. Des posts on leadership and social media on his own blog at

Des Walsh – who has written posts on Market Leadership Journal.

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