10 Bad Leadership Traits You Need To Avoid

Have you ever had a boss that was totally clueless? Never knew what was happening? Or what was the next step to take?

Probably drove you crazy. It’s driven me crazy in the past. He had bad leadership traits.

But reflecting on my own leadership, I know I’ve done things that drove others insane. You probably have too.

Man falling from mountain sign

Image by Matthew Howarth

It’s an easy thing to overlook. We’re so busy leading and taking care of what needs to be done. Missing the cues that we’ve messed up and created a mess is easy.

We need to be careful of this. If we’re not, we’ll drive our team away.

Beware of these ten leadership failures…

  1. Being arrogant: Not much worse than a leader that is arrogant. Unwilling to compromise and come to an equitable solution. And shouting how great you are to anyone and everyone that will listen. You may be knowledgeable but, remember, there’s always someone better than you.
  2. Keeping the wrong people in the wrong seat: Jim Collins talks about this issue quite a bit. You may have good people. And you probably have seats that need to be filled. The problem occurs when you place the wrong, but good, people in the wrong seat. No one is happy and nothing gets done well.
  3. Allowing dissension to occur: This one can be easy to overlook. Dissension can hide itself as discourse and common disagreement. But you need to be careful. Dissension will lead to a fracturing of your team.
  4. Failure to build relationships: When you fail to build great relationships you lose the greatest reward of leadership. The companionship and trust of others. Without relationship, you have no one to fall back on when times are tough.
  5. Complacency: Coming to the point where everything is good and you feel there is nowhere else to go. Never a good point to reach. There’s always somewhere else you can go. You need to have a goal to strive for.
  6. Stop learning: Leaders must continue to learn. When you stop learning, you become stagnant.
  7. You no longer have a mentor: You should always have someone that you can be accountable to and someone that teaches you. Losing this accountability and teacher is dangerous.
  8. Losing discipline: You require your team to have discipline. When you lose yours, your team takes notice. They’ll often join you in becoming undisciplined. That’s not what you want. The team should be well disciplined and eager to go.
  9. Not knowing your strengths: Knowing your strengths is vital to your leadership. You will be able to more effectively delegate and farm out the tasks that you are not effective at. You’re also able to focus on the items that bring you strength and you work best in.
  10. You don’t lead: What’s worse than a leader that does 1-9 on the list? One who doesn’t lead at all. If you’re going to be a leader, you must take on the responsibility and lead your team.

These are but a few of the traits of bad leadership. Be sure to avoid them.

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.
— Andrew Carnegie

Question: What can you add to the list of bad leadership traits? How have you fallen into the trap of bad leadership? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Chris Vonada

    This is a great list, Joe. I believe that through our title, or position, we’re given an opportunity to lead… it’s what we do with that opportunity that determines our success. To me, the most important part of this is continually learning, your #6

    • Exactly Chris. It’s not necessarily the title or position but what we do.

      Would you mind sharing some ways how you are continuing you learning?

    • I’m with you Chris on the continual learning–it keeps you humble, too, when you realize how much there is to learn.

  • This is a great list Joe.

    I know in the past i have failed to build strong and real relationships with my team.. Getting too focused on the job and ignoring the ones you are working alongside does kill the team spirit.

    Great post.

    • and i like the lay out of the blog, is it new. Looking good.

      • Thanks Ngina. I recently upgraded to Standard Theme 3.0 from Standard 2.0. It’s pretty awesome now they’re including the ability to make child themes.

        • I hope to move to standard theme at some point, so this is good information. Is your current theme a child theme or it’s the plain standard 3.0 without any modifications.

          • You won’t regret it. Lots of great options and the brand spanking new 3.0.

            My theme is just the plain standard with no mods. I’m looking at getting custom work done but waiting to hear how much it will run me.

    • That’s the spot many people fail with. In both ways, either going all in for relationships or not at all. Finding the balance is crucial.

  • Joe great points. I experienced # 2 when I was Plant Manager of small manufacturing company. I kept the wrong person in a supervisory position too long. I assumed because she was a good worker that she would be good at supervision. Too make a long story short it did not workout. I kept her in the position too long because I was overloaded and I needed someone to fill that role. In the long run it costs me more frustration than I needed. I learned a valuable leadership lesson that you don’t fill a seat just to fill a seat. Take the time to make sure the person is the right person for the seat. Because the wrong person can cost you more than you really want to pay.

    • Lots of people make that mistake Bernard. I’ve heard it referred to as “Promotion to incompetency.” You see it a lot in sales.

      That can be a tough mistake to correct. How did you deal with it?

  • Close to the dissension one is getting rid of rotten apples. You almost have seal with them the way Samuel did with Agag. Hack them out.

    • So true Larry. One bad apple can ruin the group. Gossip, complaining, etc will bring your team down quickly.

  • I would add not being honest, I’ve experienced when a leader wasn’t honest and it was devasting. I know I’ve been guilty of some of the things on this list!

    • Great addition Kimanzi. Lies and deceit will destroy your leadership credibility.

  • I would add losing focus of personal vision.

    At one time I was prideful and arrogant. I still need to be careful not to let it sneak into my life. Great list of traits to avoid.

    • Keeping your eye on the vision is vital. Crazy you brought that up, we just had a meeting at work today about vision.

      • That is crazy. Great minds think a like:)

  • Complacency. I like that add. That’s why it is important to never get too comfortable (or your growth is inhibited).

    • Good one Skip. When things get complacent, we get lazy and stop growing. How have you learned to not get too comfortable?

      • I’m not wired to be comfortable. I’ve always seen continual change. If I ever do get too comfortable, THAT makes me UNcomfortable! 🙂

  • Fantastic list bro’…this is a keeper. Of everything that is on that list…I think that I’m missing a mentor the most. I had a great one and he still has influence in my life but he’s moving to Idaho and I live in NY. Time to start praying!

    • Sorry to hear that your mentor is moving away. That can be tough. I’ll join you in prayer that you’re able to find another one or a way to continue with your current mentor.

  • Great list. I think perhaps sometimes pushing too hard or taking too many risks could be one. Good leaders push and take risks, but how many have failed not just themselves, but the ones who were counting on their leadership to guide and secure their provision? I’m not talking about things beyond a leaders control, just the idea of gambling, the leader thinking they have the midas touch so to speak.

    • Good point Floyd. It’s finding the balance between the calculated, thought-out risk vs. the willy-nilly do anything for the sake of it being a risk.

      How have you found balance in this area?

      • Good question Joe. To be honest it’s one I’ve struggled with over the years in business. I know I’m better than I was, God has a way of opening our eyes. It’s not always easy, but necessary if we’re going our own way, pushing for our competitive nature, ego, or insecurities. It’s a fine line between being satisfied with His provision and using the gifts He’s born us with I think.

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  • Watch out! All these traits are dangerous for leaders.

    The one I hate the most is “being arrogant.” I don’t like seeing it in other leaders, but I especially hate when I see it in me.

    • Me too Kent. Arrogance can happen so quickly. Any tips on handling it?

      • Yeah, here’s my best tip…don’t be arrogant 🙂

        Seriously, for me, the occasional realization that I have just been a jerk really shocks me back into reality. I try to embrace those painful moments so that I am constantly aware of any tendency to get too full of myself.

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