There’s no right way to lead, but there are countless ways to lead miserably. This guide is the ultimate source to gain new insights from bad leadership and learn what not to do.

According to a study by the University of Central Florida (UCF), victims of business-related abuse can become effective leaders when presented with influential positions of authority by becoming aware of their bad bosses practices.

Although there are many negatives a bad leader could bring to an organisation, including its potential demise in the worst-case scenario. They also carry a small positive by indirectly teaching subordinates what to avoid as a potential future leader.

Success magazine states that common traits of bad leaders include lacking transparency, understanding, communication, listening, consistency, and empathy.


What makes a bad leader?

Mad executive yelling

Bad leaders are not good at adapting to new conditions, developing their teams, valuing potential, or praising good behaviour.

They have an abundance of blame, rules, ego, closed-mindedness, gossip and work to go around.

Bad leadership traits include being phoney, autocratic, opportunist, narrow-minded, greedy, malicious, moody, arrogant, or any combination thereof.

So surely growing the opposite of these bad leadership traits could be the cure-all?

If only it were that simple.

Not only must authentic leaders have the opposite traits to bad leaders, but they must also be realistic and work on improving their flaws.

Following their self-assessment, they must work towards undoing as much damage as possible by bringing negative traits to zero out of ten over the long-term.

For example:

  • If you blame others for mistakes or failures five times out of ten, how can you work towards interpreting situations more practically?
  • If you do not value the potential of employees with less experience six times out of ten, how can you work towards giving “noobs” more value?
  • If you are hiding your flaws and acting like someone else nine times out of then, how can you work towards being more genuine?

A glimmer of hope for those feeling stuck with a bad leader:

As important as it is to learn from bad leaders, it is also important not to become one.

Unfortunately, most of modern society is busy looking for cures to complex problems, which are partially or entirely caused by lousy leadership or their examples.

Instead, society could be finding ways to prevent complex problems from happening in the first place.

This trend of people concentrating on cures could be read daily on newspapers about both business and life in general, from actions taken by celebrities and small businesses to national governments and multinational corporations.

It seems the media dinosaurs of the 20th Century have ingrained in people a mass hysteria of seeking or creating villains to look down upon – so that powerful “super-heroes” could come and save the day.

Super Hero Child

In reality, instead of fueling these so-called “super-heroes”, which are predominantly in aggressive re-active mode, and breaking multiple laws. The correct action would be to learn from the mistakes of past-villains and assertively preventing those mistakes from being repeated by others.

Achieving this correct notion of stability revolves around improving education, media, psychology, compliance, policing and entertainment-centric systems.

As good as being a “super-hero” is for the short or medium-term branding of a company or country, having no villains in the first place is better for long-term branding and sustainable development.

An exemplification of a good leader taking the correct and stable approach is that of Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, and her government, following the terrorist attack at Christchurch in March 2019:

Ardern actively praised the local community in-person for being reliable and sticking together in the face of adversity. Her government then passed a gun-law reform less than a month after the tragic event to prevent such villains from rising in the first place.

She could have been a bad leader by playing the “super-hero” card and concentrating her FULL efforts on the villain or blaming others such as the police or intelligence services for months on end.

Instead, Ardern ensured the villain got prosecuted quietly without giving him the light of day, which is evidently what he desired.

She then moved on towards selflessly listening to the community, and transparently preventing such horrific tragedies from happening again.

Jacinda Ardern speaking to a crowd using a megaphone scaled

(Image Source: Flickr)

The aforementioned study by UCF discovered that people who trusted their sound-judgements, strict morals and sincere uprightness to challenge evil leadership customs felt inspired to prevent them from happening again.

Although lousy leadership is not expected to disappear anytime soon, people who set good examples or work towards solving complex issues lead the way in effective leadership. And this is the most efficient when applied from the top-down.

Or as Friedrich Nietzsche put it; “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

The first lesson when teaching good leadership in every school of thinking starts with fixing problems in constructive ways — not destructing communities or alienating whole groups of people.

This piece of wisdom goes back millenniums, yet it seems many people have skipped the class.

Hopefully, more people set good examples moving forward.

Publisher’s note – this article was originally published at Richtopia by Derin Cag.

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Derin Cag
Derin Cag is the founder of Richtopia who's vision is to enrich lives through education and partnerships, with an ultimate vision in parallel with the UNDP's Sustainable Development Goals. Richtopia was founded in 2014 and has attracted a notable audience including names like Richard Branson, Guy Kawasaki, Brian Tracey, Elif Şafak, Paulo Coelho and more. Richtopia has been mentioned across various media outlets including the BBC, Forbes, Fortune, CNBC, Harvard Business Review (HBR) and Business Insider to name a few. Derin is a thought-leader, content editor, and author of e-books. He is also a guest lecturer at INSEEC Group / University of Monaco. Derin is regularly invited to speak at international conferences on topics including the implications of Industry 4.0, digital transformation, AI, IoT, and social entrepreneurship. Derin finds global trends and transformative technologies - for making the world a better place - of particular interest.