6 Characteristics of a Bad Leader Everyone Hates

Characteristics of a bad leader everyone hates! Do any of these sound surprising, or are you a little too familiar with them?

Work Environment

Christine Chartrand

VP Consulting Services

Tuesday, April 07, 2015


Not everyone has been blessed with the opportunity to be led by influential and competent leaders. In fact, you might be shuddering at the very thought of reliving your experiences with them, or perhaps you have mended those wounds and are now lucky enough to be exposed to someone with an inspiring style of leadership.

And whether you’ve been exposed to one, hired one or have been one yourself, characteristics of a bad leader should at the very least be identified to bring more awareness, and, if possible, some type of development in these areas.

Here are some characteristics of a bad leader that might be surprising, or, that might be all too familiar to you.

1. Avoids or does not deal with conflict

Whether in direct conflict with another employee, or being the mediator between two people in dispute, a leader shouldn’t just pretend that everything is ok and assume things will fix themselves. Dodging these types of disputes or unpleasant situations can result in accumulated frustrations, resentment and poor communication.

So, although a leader might think they are doing everyone involved a favor by avoiding confrontation, this may blow up in their face one day. A good leader will approach the situation with an open mind and be proactive.

2. They power trip instead of empowering others

Being in a position of power doesn’t mean abusing these rights. A true leader will make a conscious effort to inspire, invest time in developing their team and help them be the best they can be.

When their title or ranking begins to go to their heads, it can cause the focus to shift from team empowerment to boosting their own feelings of self-worth. Leadership is not about exerting control over employees, but about guiding and giving direction to others in order for them to grow and reach their true potential.

Define clear expectations and roles, invite feedback, create stimulating opportunities and allow them to spread their own wings. Empower employees to ultimately empower themselves!

3. They never show vulnerability

Leaders may perceive their roles as powerful, resilient and invincible, and continuously want to display an image of flawlessness, which can be more intimidating than inspiring. What some leaders fail to see is that this unrealistic image of strength can be misinterpreted as unapproachable, or as having this magical armor that protects them from the hurdles that their employees are susceptible to.

When did demonstrating a certain vulnerability become a bad thing? It lets those you are trying to empower know that you too are subject to mistakes, regrets and frustration, that criticism and rejection can also have an impact on your state of mind, that you too are human!

Showing that you can be vulnerable at times can make you more relatable to your workers, leaving them feeling less defeated by their own shortcomings. But of course, remember: everything in moderation!

4. They fail to see the strengths of their team

Not sure what “characteristic” this one falls under, maybe poor judge of character? Inability to identify potential in others? In any case, you get the idea.

A leader that doesn’t know or take the steps to get to know the strengths of the workforce may be leading with blinders on. Perhaps they are delegating responsibilities to those who are not build for the part, or overlooking someone’s natural talent when it could have proved beneficial for the execution of certain tasks.

A good leader will utilise tools that can uncover the true potential, not only to assign tasks, but to continue to motivate and communicate effectively with them. Failing to see these natural reflexes is like only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

5. They never take accountability

Being a leader means you accept a certain amount of responsibility for the outcome of projects or tasks that are required of you. It means taking initiative instead of placing blame on others or feeling like the victim. It involves admitting ownership of a problem and taking action to solve or correct an issue.

A good leader doesn’t take credit for the good and disregard the bad. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. It’s EASIER to point fingers and be passive, but a heck of a lot more productive if you are proactive and want to better the situation as well as yourself. It’s about asking yourself how you can improve your performance as well as the performance of others. Like a captain going down with his ship, leaders should not leave their team hanging when situations take a turn for the worst.

6. They just don’t listen

There are different ways a leader can listen. It’s not only about being quiet so that someone can talk and give their point of view. It’s paying attention to body language, giving feedback to the other person on what you’ve heard, paraphrasing and confirming your comprehension of what they just said.

There’s also the aspect of self-awareness, of truly understanding your own style of communication. Maybe you are an extrovert that likes to steal the spotlight and initiate several discussion daily. Or perhaps you know you tend to get sidetracked after 5 minutes. No matter the situation, know what you need to work on when it comes to communicating (giving and receiving), so that you can be the most effective listener for your team.

Chances are you remember your encounter with a bad leader. They might not have handled conflict effectively, or might not have handled conflict at all, allowing frustrations to escalade. They may have been on a power trip or failed to show any vulnerability, which lead their employees to feel more intimidated and insecure. Perhaps they failed to see the real strengths of their team members, didn’t utilise active listening, or placed blame on others when they should have rendered themselves accountable. No matter which one of these characteristics of a bad leader you might have witnessed, hired or engaged in yourself, using tools that can uncover such potentials is essential for the success of your organization.

Do you or someone you know have what it takes to be an effective leader?

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