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Bad Leaders, Good Learning Opportunities

I acquiesce that good leadership tends to have distinguishable attributed qualities such as: self-assurance, dominance, decisiveness or charisma. As far as leadership styles go, extroverted executives aren’t always the best leaders and this attribute doesn’t always lead to career progression.

Naturally, budding leaders will look to the thriving, successful leaders to learn. However, taking notes from the bad bosses of the world is just as much of a teachable moment.

Taking a look at the most common signs you’re working under one of these “bad bosses”, we share ways to learn from them.

Leading By Fear

A clear indication you’re under the reign of an awful leader, is when the teams around you are in fear of speaking up and sharing opinions. You know those kinds of leaders that manage their teams by inflicting pure fear into the individuals.

Rather than creating open-communication relationships, or motivating teams through enthusiasm—poor leaders manage through threats and intimidation. These are the leaders who have zero tolerance policies for mistake making and refuse to listen to creativity and idea sharing.

A great takeaway from these kinds of leaders, is to visibly see how little it does to achieve the overall goals of the company. If you’ve got revenue goals or need to work together to achieve success as a team, it’s much more beneficial to the leader to embrace failures and facilitate an environment of constructive criticism, knowledge sharing, and learning across teams.

Having All The Answers

No one likes a know-it-all, let alone a cluster of employees looking to a leader who refuses to hear any opinion that might contradict their own.

It’s no secret that employees of both large and small businesses value the opportunity to have their voices heard within their organisations. The most defeating feeling can come when you have something you really want to share in a meeting or around a discussion, but can’t get an word in edge wise.

These poor leaders believe themselves to be the source of all answers. They have little use for asking for a second opinion or for feedback. Egos are usually large, and often this challenge to question their thinking is seen as a threat. Most of the time, these kinds of leaders care less about the outcomes of goals set than to just be right.

In contrary, when you’ve got a great leader—they find value in hearing feedback and learning about what their teams think. These leaders value developing their own personal learning—and find there are opportunities to learn from the diverse teams they create.

Takeaway number two, cultivate a question culture within your organisation, if you’re hoping to be a leader that drives your team to optimal success.


This kind of leader is one who lives to follow the bureaucratic rules. Every decision or new idea is quickly shot down with a no—slapped with excuses that involve multiple levels of approvals.

Rather than championing new initiatives, these bad leaders would rather push away the ideas through regulation. These are the hesitators, and ones who never drive big change within an organisation. A true example of abuse of power, that often costs leaders great talent.

The takeaway here, is that a good leader would empower change and innovation within their teams. Rather than block new ideas and initiatives—these great leaders would instead offer solutions or advice on how to help achieve the new and unexplored.

Lack of GPS

So often, poor leadership is reflected through the team’s that sit beneath them—running around with conflicting ideas around what strategy they are chasing. These teams often have very split communication channels—that lack a cohesive set of goals. This tends to only occur when a lack of direction is provided from the leader at the top.

Being clear on the vision and goals of the company is only something good leader will provide. Knowing what role each person plays, and how it impacts the overall goals of the company can really motivate a team to reach the same goal.

Lesson here is to avoid being the kind of leader that has a lack of communication skills to manage your teams effectively.

Status Quo Woes

If you look at some of the most successful companies around the world today, you’ll see a common theme of leaders who drive innovation and change. They are the changemakers, forward-thinkers—who challenge the status quo with great effort.

It’s no coincidence that failing or stagnant businesses often have leadership teams that fear shaking up the norm. This is such a missed opportunity, as it will often lead to future failed organisations.

In an increasingly fast-changing world, leaders need to be representative of encouraging change and innovation. Feeling threatened by changing situations, can often lead to poor decision making based on fear—rather than decisions that will drive the business forward.

Narrow-mindedness is not a sign of a great leader, as truly great leaders are ones that really fight to bring diversity into the business and make a healthy amount of risky decisions. Even more important, is how tuned in successful leaders are to the next big changes in the market.  A good leader thinks ahead of the curve, and takes the risks that can keep the organisation competitive.

*This article first appeared on www.thehrobserver.com

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