Bosses Beware: Are You Exhibiting Symptoms of Bad Leadership?

Doug Staneart  |  October 2, 2015
last updated
leaders-group Bosses, are you exhibiting symptoms of bad leadership? Do you sometimes think your team hates you? Do you sometimes feel that they question your decisions behind your back? Does your team lack faith in your ability to lead them? Do you resent them for feeling this way? Or are you curious to know why they’re like that in the first place?

As the boss, it’s important to recognize that your title doesn’t automatically earn you the leadership skills needed to successfully hold on to that position. Quite frankly, tons of leaders are put into position they’re not equipped to occupy. Either they grow into it, or spend a good chunk of their career struggling. In this piece, I want to help you swallow the bitter pill that is bad leadership. If you identify with one or more of these traits, it’s not too late to change.

Which Symptoms of Bad Leadership are You Guilty of?

Automatons Lacking Empathy

Some leaders care about results, nothing else. They don’t care how things are done, or what kind of sacrifices you’ve had to make just to submit your work. What’s important is you finish the task no matter what. This is an example of an extremely results-oriented leader.
Their approach might look good on the surface, but beneath all the on-time submissions and exemplary work is a team of unsatisfied, almost-zombie like employees who wouldn’t dare defy their boss’s expectations. The result is an unhealthy work atmosphere where screw-ups are swept under the rug.

Criticisms, Criticisms, but No Feedback for Improvement

Creatives know this pain all too well, but it’s experienced by employees in other industries, too. The boss rejects the work citing it’s not what they like, it’s not up to standards, or the generic, ‘you’re doing it wrong’ complaint without clarifying exactly what needs to be changed.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to critique an employee’s work. But critiquing goes hand in hand with providing direction and clear feedback. The inability to articulate yourself is a serious skill deficit, for without it, your team won’t be able to grow with your guidance.


Ugh, the know-it-all. Annoying people, aren’t they? They think they know too much. But they don’t know what they don’t know.

Know-it-all leaders have a strong desire to feel like the smartest person in the team. They’re not interested in hearing your opinion, and certainly not on learning from you. Even if they have no bloody clue what’s going on!

A huge ego and lack of curiosity often causes leaders like this to overlook critical items and commit mistakes that could’ve been easily avoided.

Understandably, some leaders feel that they have to know the answers to all possible questions their subordinates might ask. But that’s just not true. A better leader admits his lack of knowledge and strives to know the right person to ask for answers.
Buddy or Boss

Listen up, especially the newly-minted leaders out there. You don’t have to be friends with your team just to gain their trust and respect. You are the boss and that puts you in an awkward situation if you become buddies with the people you’re managing.

Sure, friendship can quickly gain you their trust and respect, even. But at what cost? Once you’re friends, they will undermine your leadership thinking they can get away with anything because you’re ‘buddies.’ Friendship also clouds your judgment towards poor productivity, career advancement, and accountability.

Be Honest, Do You Show any of these Signs?

Imagine for a second that it’s just you and me. No one else is around. Can you honestly say that you’re not guilty of the above behaviors? If you are, what are you willing to do about it? You don’t have to force yourself to change at once. You can do it little by little. As long as you’re aware of the problem — aware of the symptoms of bad leadership, that’s a good start.

Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources and an instructor for The Leader’s Institute® in the Northeast region. She is based in Trenton, NJ but she also teaches in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other Northeast cities.
author Doug Staneart
posted on
last updated
Doug Staneart is president of The Leader's Institute ®. He is based in the Dallas, Texas Region. He is a specialist in corporate team building activities and custom presentation skills seminars.
← Oaktree Capital Build-A-Bike Team Building Event Los Angeles, CA PVH Corp Build-A-Bike Team Activity in New York, NY →