Bad Managers … Watch Out For These Leadership Traits to Avoid Them

Good managers? I have had my share. In fact, in over 40 years of leadership experience, I’ve had way more great bosses than bad ones. I was able to avoid the bad managers most of the time. And I had lots of experience studying leadership traits scattered all over the map.

avoid the worst bosses
Avoid the worst bosses.


The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.

Ray Kroc


It’s important to realize that just because someone holds a position of leadership, doesn’t necessarily mean they should. Put another way; not all leaders are created equal. The problem many organizations are suffering from is a recognition problem – they can’t seem to recognize good leaders from bad ones.


In today’s article, I’ll address how to identify bad leaders by pointing out leadership traits that represent bad leadership.


Here is my top ten of those traits drawn from my years of experience:


Bad managers … pompous and arrogant 

Perhaps the worst trait I’ve personally observed is ego. We all have an ego, but the ego I’m talking about is the ‘super-ego’ that dominates.  I’ve found if a leader is really good at what they do, they won’t have to tell others about it.

It’s all about them, isn’t it? If a leader doesn’t understand the concept of “service above self” they will not engender the trust, confidence, and loyalty of those they lead. Any leader is only as good as his or her team’s desire to be led by them. Real leaders take the blame and give the credit – not the other way around.



Bad managers
Bad managers micromanage.

Lacks empathy 

Tim Brown, the CEO and President of IDEO, the global innovation, and design firm, describes empathy as making an effort to “see the world through the eyes of others, understand the world through their experiences, and feel the world through their emotions.” Bad leaders don’t have this ability because they don’t care. Extraordinarily bad leaders address problems in the open public. They don’t coach; they make things personal and like to pass on the blame to specific employees and teams.



Leaders who can’t see it 

Da Vinci once said: There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when shown, and those that do not see.

For those leaders in the second and especially third groups easily

lose the confidence of those they are trying to lead. Their lack of vision cannot inspire teams, motivate performance, or create sustainable value.  A leader’s job is to align the organization around a clear and achievable vision. This cannot occur when the blind lead the blind.



Bad managers at work … the know-it-all 

The worst leaders are acutely unaware of how much they don’t know. They most often have a big need to be the smartest person in the room and have no desire to learn from others. One of the hallmarks of great leaders is their insatiable curiosity. Bad leaders aren’t extremely curious about their organization, and this weakness creates huge problems for the future.




Micromanagers can’t resist becoming involved in the smallest details of their employee’s jobs. While micromanaging ensures that everything is done the manager’s way, employees resent the lack of responsibility, autonomy, and lack of growth opportunities.



Occasionally you will find a leader who believes in the stick much more than the carrot. This leadership style intimidates and bullies employees, often threatening them if work is not completed satisfactorily.

Employees of a poor leader might be publicly berated for mistakes and subject to criticism of their personality traits. Working in such an environment decreases staff morale, increases turnover, and causes stress.

Avoid the worst bosses … poor people skills

Bad leaders are often negative people who have no idea how to motivate others. They share their negative opinions about the company or a department-wide project, rather than emphasizing the positive aspects of a situation.  Unable to consider anyone’s viewpoint but their own, poor leaders don’t respond well to complaints or suggestions. And they love to put their own ‘spin’ on issues.




A bad leader often seems to listen but never hears.  They rarely are willing to work to understand the needs and desires of others.



Lack self-accountability 

 Bad leaders rarely take responsibility for team performance, because they are always focused on their self-advancement. When problems arise, they identify them quickly, seek out who is accountable, and focus more on blame than solutions.



No humility 

Bad leaders are energized by being right. They rarely acknowledge the effort or success of the team. When they do, it is usually cover in a big ‘spin.’ They very rarely admit to their weaknesses or mistakes they have made and are never humble.




The worse leaders never accept that employees are individuals who thrive best when allowed to choose their approach to risk and happiness. They don’t ever allow them imperfection and failure without chastisement.



Key takeaways


From my experience, great leaders rarely if ever exhibit any of these ‘deep dark’ negative traits. Good leaders occasionally will exhibit one of these negative traits, but not in a significant way. The very worst of the bad leaders exhibit many of these traits.


I have only seen one very senior leader exhibit a majority of these bad traits (in fact all of them at times). He was a ‘chosen one’ by a CEO that shared some of those bad traits.


The moral of this story is company culture has a great influence on leadership development. If these traits are possessed by your current leadership team or your emerging leaders, you will be in for a rocky road ahead.


Which of these bad traits stand out to you? Do you have any other signs of ineffective leaders worthy of mention? Leave a comment and share your insights with others…



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More leadership material from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:
Build an Effective Team by Being a Talent Hound
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Secrets to Becoming a Remarkably Mindful Leader
Leadership Characteristics That Improve Influence
Mike Schoultz is a digital marketing and customer service expert. With 48 years of business experience, he consults on and writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+FacebookTwitter, Digital Spark Marketing, and LinkedIn.
Bad Managers … Watch Out For These Leadership Traits to Avoid Them