The 5 worst leadership traits (and how to avoid them)5 min read

February 5, 2020 4 min read


The 5 worst leadership traits (and how to avoid them)5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Here’s a staggering statistic: approximately half of Americans who leave their jobs do so to get away from their manager. They cite lack of engagement and feeling miserable while at work as primary reasons for exiting a company.

So what is it about these managers – who are supposed to be beacons of leadership – that causes people to flee?

We’ve compiled five of the worst leadership traits as commonly cited by recent studies available about the modern workforce. If you are in a leadership position, or seek to move into one, it’s worth it to ensure you’re steering clear from these destructive qualities. Read on to find out how. 


Yes, it’s the big cliché of bad bosses. Micromanaging exists all too often. Perhaps it stems from fear of lack of control or things going awry and the micromanager being left responsible. Perhaps it stems from ego. Whatever the reason, it’s certainly a leadership style that is worth sidestepping. 

Most people who work beneath micromanaging leaders do not do their best work. When leaders fail to delegate responsibilities, they effectively stifle their team’s creativity, freedom and morale. This leads to lack of engagement (and if you remember from above, that doesn’t bode too well for employee retention).

Instead of trying to tackle all tasks at once, learn to delegate like a pro. Get to know your employees well enough so you know who can complete jobs with a high degree of competence and who might need some extra training. Leave others the freedom to achieve in the way they do best, and watch the good results (and morale) pour in. 

Taking all the credit

What’s worse than an incompetent leader? An incompetent leader who takes all the credit for others’ good work. Leaders who are motivated by power may claim their colleagues’ hard work as their own or pass off blame to someone else for their own wrongdoing.

A good leader, on the other hand, does the opposite. He or she takes responsibility for personal actions and recognizes the dedication and success of others. As a leader, you can never go wrong by picking up the blame in situations that involve the team; same goes for naming the team as the key driver for success when things go right. Above all, you should seek to lift up your team and inspire them by giving them credit both collectively and as individuals. 

Disconnection or absenteeism

Nothing speaks lack of respect like skipping meetings, being late or not responding to communication in a timely manner. All of these actions signal unavailability and disconnection between a leader and those around them. 

In order to combat these unfortunate situations, transparency and respect should be a focus point for any leader. When in doubt, over-communicate. Many leaders are busy, rushing from meeting to meeting. However, this doesn’t create an excuse to skip correspondence or forget the rules of common decency. Keep an open door for others to come to you, and be sure to share some of your triumphs and challenges to ensure others can connect with you on a human level. 

Not following through

In everyday life, we quickly learn to mistrust anyone who says one thing then does the opposite. Leaders who make too many promises they can’t keep run the risk of drumming up mistrust on their team. Those who don’t follow through may not do so on purpose (in fact, more often than not, it’s because they’ve overpacked their schedule), but that still doesn’t afford them an excuse for giving others false hopes.

Here’s where developing transparency can really help. Take this example: If you tell a sales team that you think a deal will go through but it’s not 100 percent certain yet, be sure to give them some behind-the-scenes details. That way they’ll be able to weigh the situation on their own terms. 

Being driven by ego

Ego-motivated leadership manifests itself in many (sometimes sneaky) ways. An egotistical leader may react inappropriately to constructive criticism, or worse yet, create a wall that makes others fearful to communicate openly. Leaders who speak more than they listen do not create a healthy loop of learning and understanding. This results in a lack of empathy for teammates, subordinates or fellow management. 

Beyond negative side effects for communication, egotistical leaders often prioritize decisions that work best for themselves – even if it’s detrimental for the company or fellow employees. They may also have an inflated sense of their skills or accomplishments. 

Good leaders, on the other hand, aim to manage and move others with an empathetic, humble approach. As a leader, you should seek to check in with yourself when you believe your ego may be getting in the way. 

The bottomline? Leaders should seek to inspire positive action in their team members. The worst leadership traits do the exact opposite, instead creating distance and lack of respect among employees. Be sure that you are on the right track to effective management by bulking up your skills in a leadership executive education course. Coursalytics recommends….

The Positive Leader – Deep Change and Organizational Transformation – by Michigan Ross School of Business

Or their partner program based in Europe:

Becoming a Positive Leader to Accelerate Positive Change – by IESE Business School

Also based in Europe, we recommend:

Leading With Psychological Intelligence – by European School of Management and Technology

Here is another great course located in Canada:

Search Inside Yourself – by Rotman School of Management

Want to discover even more courses to perfect your leadership? Start your search now in Coursalytics.

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