If you’ve never experienced an example of bad leadership, I’m going to assume you’re a hermit. Horrible bosses are so prevalent that they made a movie about it. And that movie was a huge success because the topic is so relatable.
This article is going to focus less on the extreme behaviours of bad leaders, and more on nuanced examples of bad leadership. Those frustrating habits that can slowly lead to employees’ lack of faith, willingness, and engagement.
If you’re a leader, it may be time to check yourself…
6 examples of bad leadership
1. Lack of presence
This one’s pretty straightforward but amazingly it’s overlooked by a lot of leaders. If you expect your team and employees to work sixty hours a week, but you don’t put in the same diligent hours, you can expect animosity to rise.
It’s fine to take regular long-weekends and breaks—maybe you work eighty-hour weeks and take every second Monday off—but it should be clear to your employees that you’re working just as hard as they are.
(Our CEO wrote a great article on how leaders are often misunderstood, and his suggestion was for leaders to “work out loud” so employees can better understand what they do.)
2. Lack of direction
This is straight-up terrifying. When leaders don’t understand the overall direction a company is heading (what the growth goals are, how you’ll get there, how you’ll stay afloat), it leads to a lack of faith from employees. People will call the company’s whole purpose into question, as well as the reason for working there.
If you’re the CEO, presumably you know this information. Make sure that’s clearly conveyed to employees through company-wide updates.
3. Lack of transparency
Humans have an unbelievably acute ability to sniff out mistruths. If leaders are withholding information or, even worse, misrepresenting the truth, employees will find out. And it will shatter trust. Without trust in their leader, people quickly become disenchanted and respect dwindles.
4. Lack of authority
Bossy bosses are easy to spot and quickly become unbearable. Often less obvious is the leader who lacks authority—with other leaders, employees, clients, customers, etc.
However, these leaders can become equally frustrating. They dance around hard decisions, don’t make effective changes that need to happen, and give poor feedback.
All of this has negative knock-on effects and can lead to team burnout, unproductive processes, and lack of growth.
5. Lack of listening skills
If you’re a leader you’ve got to accept that employees won’t treat you “like just another employee”. You’re one of the most senior people in your company (if not the most senior person), so people aren’t going to be as willing to voice their honest opinions, feedback, and contradictions to your initiatives.
It’s easy to see why this becomes problematic. Leaders have a huge amount of authority and power to make large changes but they’re the person who’s least able to get brutally honest feedback on those changes. They may hear rumours and questions, but rarely will they get direct contradictory feedback.
6. Lack of faith
No-one enjoys being micro-managed, but it’s even worse if a leader fundamentally lacks faith in an employee’s opinions and expertise. It’s completely demoralizing and stunts the professional growth of the individual.
As a leader, you can’t be an expert in every part of your business. You simply don’t have the time. Even if you did, as a single person you lack the diversity of opinions needed to push a business forward holistically.
That’s why you hire specialists in different fields. With their unique expertise, they help your whole company succeed.
Being a leader isn’t easy. It requires a unique and well-rounded skill set that’s hard to come by. However, while there are “natural leaders”, leadership skills can be developed. Hopefully this article has helped you reflect on your own actions as a leader and how you can challenge yourself to further hone your craft.
Please leave us a note in the comments sections below if you’ve got any questions or feedback!