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What Makes a Bad Leader?

At Leadership Management Australia (LMA) we talk a lot about what it takes to be an instrumental and ‘good’ leader. We thought we’d look at it from a different perspective to get a fresh look at what the traits are of what we consider to be ‘bad’ leaders.

While it’s not as simple as one way is the right way in terms of leadership, there are some stand out traits that a lot of ineffective leaders demonstrate that can affect their performance and in turn, the performance of their team.

  • They don’t have empathy for others

Unresponsive leaders will often not be able to emotionally connect with those around them. They will also disregard the needs or requests of those around them as unimportant or trivial. Remember, empathy and sympathy are two different things. Empathy requires the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, whereas sympathy means feelings of pity for someone else’s situation. Empathy requires a high level of emotional intelligence and is often underutilised in cases of poor leadership.

  • They play the blame game

Strong leaders will take responsibility for their actions and will defend those around them to their upmost. Poor leaders will do exactly the opposite. They will blame those around them and will evade their responsibilities to save face.

When the blame game has been demonstrated as a fixture of the behaviour of a leader, it can be hard to regain morale from the team around them. Instead of looking for scapegoats, good leaders look for partners in their team to problem solve and deliver lasting solutions that work.

  • They fear change

Not everyone will be welcoming of change. In fact, more risk adverse people tend to avoid change in both their personal and professional lives. However, good leaders acknowledge that change is necessary for developments to happen and for growth to occur. Ineffective leaders will avoid change at any cost. New systems, innovations and divergent opinions will be opposed and sidelined in favour of what has worked to date.

  • They are not a good listener

Part of feeling empathy for someone else is being able to listen to what they have to say, really hear what it being said and being able to respond accordingly. Poor leaders will only focus on the ideas that back up their own perspective. They will disregard differing opinions and will not engage when the person they disagree with is speaking. They will avoid having open discussions with those around them and will instead revert to their own opinion when making all decisions.

  • They are inconsistent

Good leaders not only walk the walk, they talk the talk and inspire others to do the same. Leaders who are inconsistent in their behaviour will quickly convince others that they are not reliable enough to be at the helm of projects and company direction. Inconsistency can leave a team baffled and confused, increasing the likelihood of costly and time consuming mistakes and missed connections.

  • They don’t recognise individual achievement

Great leaders have a special ability of being able to single out individual achievement while still making each of their team members feel necessary and valued. Poor leaders will not bother to acknowledge their team, no matter how well they perform. Leaders who don’t push their teams to achieve more, and don’t recognise high achievement when it does happen, will soon be faced with a situation where no one will wish to work outside their comfort zone, or be motivated to do so.

  • They don’t communicate

While all of the aforementioned traits are certainly indicative of a poor leader, this one could be the most important overarching one when it comes to separating an exceptional leader from a poor leader. Poor leaders fail to inform others of decisions being made. They don’t clarify important things with people and are surprised when others don’t understand them. They assume that others have the same opinion as them. They don’t ask for feedback, or are dismissive of it when they receive it.

We are determined to be at the forefront of helping to mould great leaders. If you are curious to find out more about your strengths and areas for improvement as a leader, LMA has created the DIY Leadership Analysis to help you determine your weak spots and strategies to help you improve your leadership style.