Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

3 Traits of a Bad Leader

A wise man once said that it is the followers, not the leader, that determines if the leader is successful.  If the followers do not trust or they lack confidence in the leader, they will not be inspired.  To be successful you have to convince your followers, not yourself or your superiors, that you are worthy of being followed.

Given the above, what are the behaviors of the leader that can really turn off the followers and cause the leader to be ineffective?  Here are three that are commonly used by really bad leaders:

1.) Use of Threats and Punishment – The purpose of punishment is to stop undesired behavior.  It does nothing to encourage positive, productive behaviors in employees.  It turns a leader into a police officer, constantly on guard to catch any and all offenders.  Such threats typically cause employees to “hunker down” and go into a self-protective mode that can stifle creativity and innovation.   Even worse, if the boss doesn’t follow through, then the threats are empty and the leader losses control.

2.) Self-Serving Use of Power – We often hear that “power corrupts.”  Actually, power only corrupts when it is used for self-serving ends.  Often leaders get intoxicated by the increased power that their position gives them.  Bad leaders let that power go to their heads and do things that are in their own best interests without considering the interests of the troops.  Followers spot such behavior easily and quickly lose trust in the leader.

3.) Creating Factions: Ingroups and Outgroups -  There is a delicate balance between creating healthy internal competition and blatantly playing favorites.  Bad leaders, however, reward ingroup members, not because they are top performers, but because they show loyalty or “kiss up” to the leader.  Bad leaders will typically do favors for the loyal members of the ingroup and that makes it difficult for an outsider to identify the bad leader.  The ingroup followers defend the leader and work to keep him or her in power.  All of this leads to a very dysfunctional organization.

In my experience, raraely do bad leaders become good ones. If you are working for one of these bad leaders, it may be time to start looking for a new job!

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