Identifying bad leadership qualities in others is really easy. In fact, you’ve probably experienced the repercussions of poor leadership qualities at some point during your career. What can be more challenging is understanding when you are being a bad leader yourself.
Though being shackled by the chains of poor leadership is both undesirable and personally distressing, it’s not a permanent life sentence. By identifying the qualities of ill-fated leadership, you will gain a better understanding of when and why your leadership may be lacking and how to turn yourself around. Here are 7 qualities that define poor leadership.
The Top 7 Qualities of Bad Leadership:
1. You Lack Vision or Company Values
Without establishing a vision or goals for how you want your team to progress under your leadership, you’ll inevitably fall short. In order to lead effectively, you must have a compelling vision that will inspire your employees, as well as goals that support and enhance team performance and values that reflects the company’s core beliefs and reason for being. Visionless leaders are unable to rally their employees to work towards a common goal because the purpose of the journey—and where they’re supposed to go as a team—is unclear.
“A true leader focuses on goals. A poor leader focuses on authority.” – Sarah McMullin, Director of Business Development and Marketing at Camino Information Services.
2. You Fail to Produce Positive Results
Successful leaders must lead by example. If you are constantly failing to produce positive results (or have generally poor performance in the workplace), you won’t be able to lead others successfully.
“Being a great leader means your employees all respect you due to your passion and hard work,” explains Lisa Chu, Owner of Black N Bianco. “They are influenced by your actions and will naturally want to follow in your footsteps.”
Someone who has a long-standing track record of leadership success and a strong, highly visible work ethic is usually a much better candidate for taking on a leadership role than someone who does not.
3. You Are Self-Centered
Successful leaders have the trust, confidence, and loyalty of the entire company backing their position. If you fail to understand the vital concept of “service before self,” chances are good that your ego, pride, and arrogance will cause you to do a lot of harm as a leader.
“The most harmful attribute of being a terrible leader is using their company status to control the employees.” – Lisa Chu.
4. You Lack Empathy
Lisa Chu says, “A great leader understands empathy and knows how to approach their employees in a courteous manner. Bad leaders all lack empathy and never show respect to their employees. They are usually blinded by their ego and cannot see how much their employees despise them.”
Having the ability to step into another person’s shoes, acknowledge the value of a different perspective, and show respect for others’ points of view can help a leader—and a company— reach new levels of success.
5. You Fail to Communicate
Poor communication is a hallmark of a poor leader. Great leaders can communicate effectively even under difficult circumstances, but when weak leaders are faced with hardship, they flounder. Not only do they fail to speak with candor and courage, sometimes they don’t communicate at all.
“Poor communication [in leadership] is also very common because they are very closed-minded and will not accept any ideas or criticism,” says Lisa Chu.
Keep in mind that “communicating” doesn’t just mean getting your point across to employees—it’s about opening a dialogue. Not only do you need to openly express what needs to be said, but you also need to listen to others and actually hear what they have to say.
6. You Are Inflexible
Unless you understand the power and necessity of leadership flexibility and contextual management (especially in the modern work environment), you simply will not be successful as a leader. “My way or the highway” simply doesn’t cut it anymore, and bringing this attitude to work will inevitably result in a volatile workplace filled with dissatisfied employees.
“Treating employees like they are a commodity” and “pitting departments against each other” are telltale signs of a bad leader, according to Randi Brusse, President of Workforce Development Group, Inc.
7. You Lack Humility
Bad leaders often act as though they are the only ones who can do a job right. Not only do they micromanage their employees, they often jump in and do the work themselves because they refuse to believe that anyone else could do the job up to their standards. They require others to accomplish the work in exactly the way the leader would rather than trusting others to be competent, do their best, and fulfill their responsibilities in the way that works best for them.
“Bad leaders are about themselves. They get great fulfillment from being able to tell others what to do. My best bosses have rolled up their shirt sleeves and been in the trenches when they were the best person to accomplish the task, bringing others along to train.” – Sarah McMullin.
Don’t be a Poor Leader — Be an Effective Leader
Though having one or more of these seven characteristics doesn’t doom you to leadership failure forever, it is a sign that you need to make some changes to your management style. With some self-awareness—as well as some work, dedication, and persistence—you can develop the qualities of a great leader and help your team and organization become even more successful over the long term.