Examples Of A Bad Leader: 10 Lousy Traits To Watch Out For

Feb 10, 2023 | 0 comments

Whether it’s The Office or Bad Bosses, we have all enjoyed a laugh at these humorous examples of a bad leader. However, the joke isn’t so funny when it’s real life. You only have to look at Elon Musk and Twitter to see the real-world impact of poor leadership. His first few days as Chief Twit saw mass sackings and a sharp drop in profits. Panicked advertisers took to the hills in their droves. Bad leaders are bad for business – period.

Identifying poor leadership traits is crucial whether you are a team member, manager, HR professional, or CEO. And if you are a manager, self-reflection is key to continuous improvement. Today’s post will help you do just that as we explore common examples of a bad leader. And we go a step further with a few pointers on ways to improve leadership quality in your organization.

What Are 10 Qualities Of A Bad Leader?

1. Bossy Bosses And Timid Leaders

When it comes to poor leadership, the bossy boss is a classic red flag. Of course, leaders need to set expectations, assign tasks and monitor performance. But there’s a huge difference between managing and bossy behavior. Demanding, pushy, and domineering, bossy leaders rarely get the best out of people. Check out the example of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada for all you need to know about command-and-control leaders.

Less well-understood and just as damaging are timid leaders. These bosses dance around the hard decisions and avoid confrontation like the plague. Unwilling and unable to make the changes that need to happen, they are also poor at giving feedback.

2. MIA Bosses

As the old saying goes, great leaders walk the talk. The leader may be working just as hard as the team. But resentment will soon set in if workers perceive that the boss is always on the golf course.

All the best managers are visible and have an open-door policy. They are seen actively contributing to the company’s mission. By contrast, bad leaders are missing in action. They expect their workers to put in a 60-hour week but don’t demonstrate the same commitment. Happy to bask in the team’s reflected glory and enjoy all the rewards, MIA bosses are classic bad leaders.

3. Poor Communicators

The ability to communicate is a must-have for every effective leader. And poor communication skills are a surefire trait of lousy leadership. Mixed messages, lack of clarity, and an inability to share company goals just create uncertainty. Teams work best when there’s clarity and direction. Poor communicators leave their team members floundering in deep waters like a ship without a sail.

4. Micromanagers

Now we come to the dreaded micromanager. You know what we mean. It’s the supervisor who’s always looking over your shoulder, scrutinizing even the smallest task. They can’t let go. Control and direction are irresistible temptations for micromanagers. And while things get done just as they like it, the effect on the team can be devastating. Micromanagement stifles creativity and innovation. Workers end up feeling like they’re being treated as children. And just like grouchy teenagers, they will surely fly the nest.

5. Know-It-Alls

The know-it-all leader has all the answers. They don’t need to take advice from the team and refuse to accept that their insights are worthwhile. In fact, they are more likely to react badly if challenged about decisions. The team ends up feeling demoralized and undervalued. When a know-it-all is in charge, employees’ professional growth takes a back seat.

6. Playing Favorites

Poor leaders often play favorites. They may have a preferred way of working or approach to problem-solving and favor those with a similar mindset. In the worst-case scenario, these leaders have buddies at work who get special treatment. A bad leader often lacks the self-awareness to know what they are doing. And sometimes, it’s very deliberate.

It’s natural to have different relationships with colleagues and to get along with some people better than others. However, it’s a problem when favoritism leads to unequal and unfair treatment.

7. Inconsistent Bosses

If workers think twice about passing on information because the boss is in a bad mood, you have a leadership problem. Top-performing teams need consistent leadership to perform. It creates a foundation of trust. The team will lose confidence in the leader and their roles in the face of inconsistent and unpredictable leadership.

company culture

8. Poor Time Management And Delegation

We have all come across these examples of ineffective leaders. Panicked last-minute rushes to meet deadlines. Bosses who take on too many tasks. And those who refuse to assign responsibilities to capable team members. It’s hard work, right? The team suffers from low productivity and inferior output. Instead, frustration and resentment are the main biproducts.

9. Playing The Blame Game

All the best leaders accept responsibility even when things do not go to plan. By contrast, bad managers fail to own up to their mistakes. They blame others when things go wrong on their watch. These ‘he said, she said’ games damage team spirit and cohesion. Tensions will reach boiling point, and performance goes into a tailspin.

10. Poor Team Culture

Company culture is the magic ingredient to success. Rather like yeast in breadmaking, a strong team culture makes things happen.

Bad leaders are unable to foster team culture. They cannot translate the company mission into the team environment. The result is that workers cannot see the big picture and how their work contributes to the organization’s goals.

Furthermore, bad leaders are not focused on the customer. Best-of-breed managers are guided by the customers’ needs in everything they do. They engage with the consumer and use their feedback to innovate and plan.

Your leaders should be focused on keeping and growing customers. If not, you can bet your bottom dollar that the competition’s leadership will be.

How To Tackle Bad Leadership

Working under a bad leader is never easy. You may feel undervalued, undermined, and frustrated. For many workers, it can get too much. There’s a lot of truth in the saying that employees don’t quit their jobs; they quit their managers. And research confirms that. In one recent survey, 82 percent said they would leave their jobs because of managers’ poor behavior.

If quitting isn’t an option, the following tips will help you deal with the problem.

Try Not To Sabotage

It’s tempting to go on a go slow or take extra sick days. However, this will just make things worse. After all, you want to maintain good relationships with your colleagues and don’t want to leave them high and dry. Furthermore, if the quality of your output takes a dip, it could affect your chances of an internal move or promotion and even an external opportunity.


Try to stay one step ahead of your boss and anticipate their wants and expectations. This tip is particularly relevant if the boss is a micromanager.


This tried and tested technique can help if your leader is a poor communicator. Repeat any instructions to ensure you have understood the task correctly. Or ask for clarification by saying something like, ‘This is my understanding of what’s required. Is that right?’

Involve HR

If poor leadership is affecting the whole team’s morale and performance, it’s worthwhile talking to HR. And you should definitely seek advice if the boss is disrespectful or bullying.

What Organizations Can Do About Poor Leadership

Bad leaders impact every aspect of an organization, from poor morale to poor performance. You cannot afford to stick your head in the sand. Here’s some advice on how businesses can raise the quality of leadership.

Carefully Select Promotion Candidates

Many organizations appoint individuals to management roles as a reward for current performance. For example, the number one salesperson may be promoted to the team leader role when a vacancy arises. However, being an outstanding salesperson doesn’t make you a fantastic leader. There are different skills involved, but there’s an expectation that they will succeed without any preparation. Make sure your top-performing talent is ready for the leadership challenge by providing professional development.

Invest In Your Leaders

Whether an established leader or a newly promoted one, investing in leadership development is crucial. Mentorships and job shadowing are excellent ways to prepare potential leaders before they are appointed.

And existing managers will benefit from 360 reviews that provide honest, constructive feedback. You can then invest in professional development that addresses any shortcomings, such as delegation skills or communication.

Ensure that your leaders are kept up to date with the latest business trends and best practices.

How To Turn Bad Leaders Into Good Leaders?

Just like any skill, leadership shills need to be worked on. You may have recognized some bad leadership traits that you need to improve. Identifying your leadership skills is the first step. Self-reflection and feedback from team members or superiors will help you get there. A willingness to change is the second critical step. Check out our post Leadership Skills: 10 Great Tips To Keep Your Skills Sharp for more advice. From finding a mentor to improving your visibility, we share some top leadership tips.

And to help you get there, here’s a reminder about the essential traits every leader should have.


Being professionally and personally reliable is a vital skill. Team members need to know they can trust you to keep your promises. And it also involves setting a good example to others about acceptable behavior in the workplace.


Great leaders don’t know all the answers, only some of them. Self-awareness means being confident in your abilities and knowing your limitations. And it also involves a willingness to accept expert involvement from others at the right time.


Whether providing feedback to direct reports or communicating an unpopular company directive, be honest and transparent. When you speak honestly and respectfully, you inspire respect and sincerity from others. Your team will have faith in you as a leader.


Adapting to change is a vital leadership trait. This involves changing tactics to get the best out of your people. Best-of-breed leaders can identify and implement changes for the benefit of individual workers and the organization.


Every individual has an important role to play. Great leaders acknowledge the contributions of all team members. Whether a simple thank you email or an employee of the month award, employee appreciation instills a sense of pride in their work.

Earning respect as a leader is also crucial. You can go a long way to achieve that through honesty, consistency, and achieving results.

Bad Leadership Examples: Quick Summary

Poor leadership examples come in many forms. We have identified ten of the most common ones. Organizations need to act to avoid issues with performance and employee retention. The good news is that everyone can learn to be a good leader. Whether you are a CEO, HR professional, or team member, use the tips we have shared to ensure bad leadership is challenged and dealt with effectively.

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