The Top 20 Bad Leadership Traits

The leadership books I have read in the last couple of years mostly focus on the top leadership qualities or traits of great leaders. Some examples are:

  • Personal characters (honesty, integrity, trustworthy, humility, etc.)
  • Clear vision and purpose
  • Strategic thinking
  • Passion for what you do
  • Competence (intellectual and emotional)
  • Openness and risk-taking
  • Collaboration
  • Accountability, admitting mistakes and learning from them
  • Leading by example
  • Interpersonal and communication skills
  • Continued learning and growing
  • Inspiring and empowering
  • Hiring people who are competent

Lately I have been thinking about what makes bad leaders. Just as there are many qualities or traits that make good leaders, there are many qualities or traits that make bad leaders or bad managers.

Here is a list of the top 20 bad leadership traits I came up with. I welcome your additions and comments.

  • Having tunnel vision
  • Micromanaging
  • Being incompetent
  • Being rules oriented and not people oriented
  • Demanding perfection
  • Having fear and doubts regarding employees’ competence
  • Having low self-esteem and confidence
  • Having emotional insecurity and immaturity
  • Making decisions based on emotions
  • Acting as a roadblock between upper managers and employees
  • Acting differently in front of their superiors and subordinates
  • Blaming others for failures and taking credit for successes
  • Showing favoritism
  • Reacting negatively to criticism
  • Making assumptions without fact checking
  • Not willing or not able to change and adapt
  • Not willing to learn and grow
  • Not taking no for an answer
  • Not listening
  • Not caring about how their actions impact others

38 Responses

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  13. Gloriah

    Thank you, this is very informative. And your blogs in here had contributed a lot. Keep it up Ms. Qin.. God bless you.

  14. Qin, I have read this and other blogs and I like your fresh and clear thoughts! Thank you.
    You and your followers may be interested to know that “Leaders’ Map” book will be free on Amazon Kindle on 16th and 17th April. I hope that it may give fresh perspectives too!



  15. Hazarmaveth Nguli

    I have a research question which i should submit to MKU by Monday pliz assist me, ‘how our leaders are guided by emotions and self gratification and not reason in the context of critical and creative thinking tools of analysis and tools of evaluation’

  16. Bruce Neubauer

    Bad leaders are a symptom of a badly run organization. Bad leaders are non-visionary types, and thus appear inept when they do attempt to cast a vision. They are the type of WW2 officers who got good soldiers killed in battle. The most glaring quality of bad leaders, and the poorly run organizations they represent, is their inability to decipher the difference between an employee who disagrees and an employee that is disloyal.

    1. Ed

      Perfect. I got one of those right now! The thing is that those types never change. They should not be in management.

  17. rohit

    I am preparing for an essay to be submitted for an MBA entrance, Please review the same and comment , i need it tommorow, will apreciate yor comments on the e mail
    What are some qualities that you do not have and wish to acquire which will help you become a more effective leader? What are some qualities that you do not have and wish to acquire which will help you become a more effective manager? Please explain in two separate paragraphs (300 words max)
    “All managers are leaders, but all leaders are not managers.”
    Leadership is the ability to get people to work for you because they want to.
    Great leaders have vision., courage to take risks, integrity for being honest to the employer and client in all situation, Integrity for being honest to the employer and client in all situation, Strategic Planning, Focus, Cooperation.
    Out of the above qualities, I think I need to improve my Risk taking appetite, I tend to be very pessimistic in taking risks as I follow the conservative numbers during the risk assessment. I also need to improve the strategic planning, as I have not been involved in the same
    They can see into the future. They have a clear, exciting idea of where they are going and what they are trying to accomplish and are excellent at strategic planning.
    This quality separates them from managers. Having a clear vision turns the individual into a special type of person. This quality of vision changes a ‘‘transactional manager’’ into a ‘‘transformational leader.’’ While a manager gets the job done, great leaders tap into the emotions of their employees.

    The 10 qualities that a good manager should have is determined by the concerns for the people, having strong project management skills, mutual respect for everyone in the company, good work ethics, being responsible and accountable for all actions, having confidence and trust for the team, good .
    communication skills, be able to think out of the box, be a self motivator, and be friendly with the staff

  18. J.Franklin

    To become a Good Leader,one should know what are the bad qualities that he/she should avoid doing.

    We are always oriented in learning Good qualities.But in practical life we display Bad qualites,this will not happen if we also understand Bad qualities.

  19. Ahmad S.Dali

    ARROGANT AND AUTOCRATIC are the traits of bad leaders.Some leaders and top managers become arrogant and autocratic when they reached top positions. Arrogant is where they view followers in negative perspective; stupid, lazy, incompetent, unmotivated etc. They become autocratic, rigid and inflexible refuse to listen to subordinates and followers.

  20. Afaq Haider

    it is really a good effort to accumulate good and bad traits for a leader…….
    i am a student trying to lead my fellows…..i have no control on my emotions

  21. Elangwe Peter nanje

    I enjoy your negative and positive leadership qualities but then a good leader must be tolerant and firm some times

  22. John

    Qin, this list is great! Unfortunately, the leaders, or C-level people in my organization, encompass pretty much all of the latter traits.

  23. Barney

    Companies tend to set targets that are not achievable by the work force this creates stress and demotivates people in general , but for some strange reason managers become blind too the work force needs and tend too see only company objectives.

    This is a sure sign of bad leadership as company unrealistic targets drives managers to send out bad signals

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  25. Lynn

    The last three workplaces I’ve encountered resulted in an accumulated count of one extremely well-adjusted, effective boss, and four highly dysfunctional and ineffective ones. The latter caused me to do a significant amount of research about toxic work environments and I read a number of case studies and books devoted to the topic.

    The conclusion shared by the studies and books is a startling assessment that there are a high number of people with severe mental health issues who are promoted into management in the US. Topping the list of disorders they embody is narcissistic parinoia.

    The severely mentally ill as managers is prevalent in the US largely owing to our lack of laws forbidding harassment in the workplace. Europe has passed strict laws forbidding employers from harassing employees and takes action in their courts to remove them from positions of power. European businesses know that it’s not cost effective to hire, promote and keep abusive managers, so they often don’t even let them set foot on the ladder of management.

    Thanks for the post.

  26. Qin Tang,
    Developing this list is a great idea. As I looked through the items, I was struck with the thought that a leader who acts contrary to the great qualities of leadership is really, in some way, incompetent. For example taking the first items on the list of good qualities you provided would change to no integrity, being dishonest, not trustworthy, arrogant, no vision or strategy, etc.

    Thanks for making people think about “opposite” ideas.

    Billy Arcement, MEd—The Leadership Strategist

    1. Billy,
      Thanks for the kind words and encouragement.
      I think sometimes we learn more from the mistakes we make ourselves or see others make.

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