How to Be a Bad Leader: 6 Common Characteristics of Poor Leadership

How to Be a Bad Leader: 6 Common Characteristics of Poor Leadership

A hot temper. Moodiness. Micromanagement. These are common traits of a bad leader.

What’s the number one reason talented employees quit? Gallop polls show that 50% of employees cite their managers as the reason for leaving. A bad leader can cost your company.  And poor leadership at the highest levels of a company can be detrimental to a business (Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes and Turing Pharmaceuticals’ Martin Shkreli, as two recent examples).

While we often write about successful leaders and positive leadership traits, I think it’s about time we start talking about the opposite end of the spectrum. Here are 6 common characteristics of poor leadership that should be red flags to all companies.

6 ways to be a bad leader

1. Lack of transparency

Everyone appreciates honesty and transparency, and the same holds true in a professional setting. Even if you’re trying to prevent worry or stress, employees know when you’re not giving them the full picture and it makes their jobs more difficult.

Your team will appreciate knowing where they stand within the company and the greater goals you’re trying to accomplish. Oftentimes this leads to more focused and driven employees, who take pride in being part of a team working toward mutual goals.

2. Insulting employees in front of their coworkers

We all make mistakes. We are human, after all. But how a supervisor reacts to an employee’s mistakes is a direct reflection of their leadership style — good or bad.

We have all witnessed a leader get upset when issues arise. That’s natural when s/he is invested in the business. Good leaders know cooler heads prevail, offering constructive criticism in an appropriate one-on-one setting. But a bad leader berates employees in a group setting. Instead of helping employees learn from mistakes, his behavior only alienates people and causes resentment.

3. Micromanaging

I bet you are thinking of a specific manager from your past, as I am. Micromanaging may be my least favorite characteristic of bad leadership. Nothing says, “I don’t have faith in your work,” like a boss that is constantly looking over your shoulder.

Employees are only able to grow and develop if they are allowed to do so. Supervisors should provide direction and then empower their teams to get the work done. Your employees will become more confident and productive knowing they have your trust in their abilities and the space to be creative.

4. Lack of empathy

As leaders, we must understand that our jobs are important, but so are our employees. Understanding the challenges that your team faces, both professionally and personally, is key to creating happy and productive employees. When supervisors work to alleviate barriers, they create a supportive culture among their team.

5. Inconsistency

Last-minute changes, mixed signals, and overall inconsistency can lead to confusion and frustration within your team. Leaders who blow up at one person but listen intently to another foster fear among employees, who become unsure of how to approach you. That leads to lack of communication, which is never good for business.

Lack of consistency leads to a lack of trust and slows productivity. Employees that are unclear on direction or expectations spend time and energy worrying about how to approach their supervisors instead of how to get the job done.

6. Closed-mindedness

Feedback can be hard to hear, especially from your staff. But an unwillingness to listen to your team and take their ideas seriously will create tension.

Leaders that dig their heels in and refuse to consider new perspectives make employees feel undervalued and unable to control their own destiny. Not only does this cause employee dissatisfaction, but also leaders miss out on potentially good suggestions to improve business.

Remember, businesses don’t fail — leaders do. What other traits make a bad leader, in your experience?

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