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Do you have any of these 6 bad leadership traits?

Posted by Celene Robert

March 13, 2023

Have you ever worked for (or with) a bad leader? You know the type. The leader who talks a big game but lacks the substance to back it up. The leader who looks great on paper, but doesn’t have the skills needed to manage a team. Or the leader who checked out the day they got the promotion and just sticks around to cash checks. 

Watching a bad leader hurt morale, productivity, and profits is a frustrating and demotivating experience. And unfortunately, bad leaders are common in the business world. But if you learn to recognize the classic traits of a poor boss, manager, supervisor, or CEO, there’s a chance you can avoid promoting one — or becoming one yourself — before permanent profit damage is done. 

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Why are bad leaders everywhere?

One of the reasons for the prevalence of bad leadership is that businesses often promote based on seniority, relationships or raw technical skills, rather than true leadership abilities. Instead of promoting the best cultural and skilled fit for a management role, many leaders advance those who talk the loudest or sell the most, regardless of their people skills. 

As a result, a lot of bad leaders fall into positions they aren’t truly qualified for. While they may have known how to outperform any peer on their team, they’re totally unprepared to lead that team. 

Another reason for widespread bad leadership is that some leaders prioritize their own advancement over the well-being of the team. Instead of coaching their employees and helping each member develop and improve, they’re disconnected from the team and constantly chasing the next opportunity. 

The cost of bad leadership can’t be ignored

Taken together, these factors create a toxic work environment that breeds further bad leadership. And the worse the leadership becomes, the greater the culture of fear, distrust and frustration. As turnover rates increase, overall job satisfaction decreases. Before long, the team’s morale has tanked, productivity is lost, and countless opportunities are missed. 

But recognizing the signs of bad leadership, and avoiding promoting employees with these telltale indicators, can protect your company culture — and your bottom line. 

If you’re in a position to hire leadership roles this year, take a look at the key traits of poor leadership. And if you notice them in your next batch of leadership candidates, run! 

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6 bad leadership traits to watch for and avoid


Leading with your title, not your actions

This is the trait of a leader who gains all their power and authority from their title. Rather than demonstrating healthy leadership through their behaviors and actions, they demand respect and adherence, simply because their title says they can ask for it. 

In the long run, this leadership trait creates a culture of resentment and distrust among the team. But the opposite type of leadership, servant leadership, creates a culture of trust, shared responsibility and productivity.

Believing you’re a better leader than you are

The best leaders are continually looking for ways to improve. On the other hand, the worst leaders think they’ve got it all.

Leaders who overestimate their abilities can become complacent and resistant to feedback. Rather than taking opportunities to grow and develop, they settle in — missing valuable opportunities along the way. 

Being unavailable

The checked-out leader is no leader at all. Whether you’re frequently unavailable due to meetings and obligations, never online, or mentally somewhere else, persistent unavailability will lead to a sense of neglect and disconnection. 

Teams need attention to function properly. That’s why the unavailable leader will always be an ineffective one. 

Being unaware of your product

If you don’t have a deep understanding of your business’s products or services, how can you expect your team to? A leader who lacks a strong knowledge or understanding of their business’ products or services can lead to ineffective decision-making and missed opportunities for growth.

Leading with your charm, not compassion

A leader who prioritizes charisma over quality connections will find it difficult to keep their team engaged. Once the charm wears off, teams expect relatability and empathy underneath. In fact, empathetic leaders create an environment of greater innovation, engagement and retention. Anything less than authentic connections simply erodes trust.

Being incompetent

Lacking knowledge about your product is one thing, but lacking knowledge and experience in general has a way of creating a culture of chaos and uncertainty for every team member involved. Incompetency is one of the most concerning signs of a bad leader, and always leads to poor decision-making and decreased productivity. 

Do any of these traits sound familiar, in your leaders, or yourself?

A little introspection can go a long way. With this list of poor leadership traits in mind, ask yourself, do any of these tendencies characterize your leadership style?

Bad leadership habits can have a significantly negative impact on a business’s success, resulting in decreased productivity, high employee turnover rates, and missed opportunities for growth. But by making a point to identify the common traits of a bad leader, protecting yourself from embodying these traits, and prioritizing effective leadership practices, businesses can create a positive work culture that promotes productivity, growth, and success.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. Escalon and its affiliates are not providing tax, legal or accounting advice in this article. If you would like to engage with Escalon, please contact us here.

Want more? Escalon provides comprehensive back-office solutions to businesses to help them focus on growth. Escalon’s services support businesses with outsourced finance, taxes, accounting, human resource, risk management and compliance. Talk to an expert today.

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Celene Robert
Celene Robert

Celene heads up the marketing at Escalon. Passionate about helping companies grow their business, she spends her days finding new ways to bring essential business services to startups, SMBs, and growth-minded companies. Based in the PNW, she’s the proud owner of 8 pairs of Birkenstocks and a sassy, cuddly cat.

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