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Traits of bad leadership

By Atip Muangsuwan

traits of bad leadership

“Degree of happiness or suffering of their people can be a good measurement of how good or bad their leaders are.” – Coach Atip Muangsuwan

One of my young-generation-leader clients showed up with his leadership question: “What are the traits of bad leadership?”

Our discussion went on like the followings.

Client: I’ve learned that one of the main reasons why there’s “The Great Resignation” happening right now is due to… ‘bad leadership’.  And I myself don’t want to become one of those bad leaders. So, could we discuss about this topic for today?

Coach Atip: You bet. What would you like to discuss specifically about this leadership topic?

Client: I’d like to know what traits of bad leadership are in order to become self-aware of those traits. And if I have those traits in me, I will be better at managing or handling them.

Coach Atip: Gotcha! In my view, I think the following traits belong to bad leadership:

  1. Lack of vision

If leaders lack vision, they cannot be great leaders. Leaders need to have vision and ‘the why’ behind it for people to follow and join their cause.

See Mahatma Gandhi for a great example. He had a strong and vivid vision to make India independent from England and he convinced Indian people with ‘the why’ India must have freedom.  

This reminds me of my own real-life example as well when I led the Green Team of more than 400 people in the company’s sports day event.  You can read about it from my website’s article: “What is a definition of transformational leadership?”

I shared my vision with the team and told them ‘The why’ of my vision. Then, they followed me without me having to give them anything in return. They followed me because of my vision and the good cause!

Client: I total agree with you on this one! And what’s the next bad leadership’s trait?

Coach Atip: The next one is…

  1. Poor communication

Effective or poor communication can make the difference between great and mediocre leadership. Effective-communication leaders can inspire their followers to take action as they wish.

An example of great-communication leaders is Martin Luther King, Jr. Who hasn’t heard and been touched by King’s “I have a dream” speech? The message is a beautiful one, and so was the way he delivered it. He delivered it with strong passion and effectiveness.

For me, when I led the Green Team, I used a townhall-meeting approach and followed up with daily email messages to keep effective communication going on among the team members. And this was really an effective approach for me to lead a large number of people like this (over 400 people).

Client: Wow! I can see your point why people would be motivated to join or participate in the leaders’ visions and causes with effective communication skill of the leaders. Great point! And what’s next?

Coach Atip: That’s exactly right. Effective communication skill is vital for leadership! The next trait of bad leadership is…

  1. Micromanagement

If leaders do micromanagement, that basically means they don’t trust their people. This is a big red flag.

If you want to increase the stress levels in the workplace, micromanagement by the leadership is a great way to do it.

In contrast, leaders should give ample spaces for their people to do great work by not inserting themselves into the middle of things.

Flashing back of my own story, when I led the Green Team, I asked for volunteers to be the heads of each sports category. Then, I empowered the heads to do their best jobs like finding athletes, managing athletes, organizing and training athletes and so on and so forth until the tournament days by not interfering them; but giving them ample spaces to do their great jobs.

Client: So, great leaders need macro-management rather than micro-management in order to lead powerfully.

Coach Atip: Right on. Leaders need to focus on the big picture and the vision rather than a tiny picture and small details of the work.

So, micromanagement is one of the traits of bad leadership.

Client: I absolutely agree with you. So, what are other traits of bad leadership that you see?

Coach Atip:  The next one is…

  1. Avoiding conflict

Generally, managing conflict isn’t something most people look forward to. It’s messy and emotionally draining. But for leaders, it’s something that simply has to be done — there’s no exception. Because whether your workers have a problem with you or one of their peers, conflict gets in the way of goals or visions.  

When leaders ignore conflict because they’re afraid to deal with it, feelings of resentment boil over and spill into productivity. But more importantly, conflict avoidance makes it seem as if leaders don’t care about their teams on a personal level. Ignoring problems can seem helpful at first, but the longer conflict simmers, the larger the explosion will eventually be.

While I was leading the Green Team, the head of the Cheerleader team had a big conflict with some of his team members about the design of the cheerleaders’ costume. If I let this conflict escalate any further, this could potentially affect the performance of the cheerleader team on the D-day of the competition!

So, I had to step in to resolve the conflict between the head and his cheerleader crew. After resolving the conflict, everything went well and smoothly including the cheerleaders’ performance on the D-day!

Client: Wow! This reminds me of one of your great leadership articles, entitled: “What are the skills needed for leadership?” That mentioned about a diplomatic skill. Great leaders must have a diplomatic skill and use it for a win-win solution.

Coach Atip: Indeed! Thanks for reading my leadership articles. Resolving conflict is another vital skill for great leaders.

Client: What’s the next trait of bad leadership? I’m curious to learn about it.

Coach Atip: The next one is…

  1. Missing executive or leadership presence

Great leaders should have their ‘executive/leadership presence’. That basically means… they must come down from their ‘ivory towers’ and reach out to their people. In a corporate world, this could mean… CEOs get out of their corner offices and go talk to their staff or their fellow employees face-to-face in order to establish connection, relationship and engagement with them. This would make a big impact to employee engagement and collaboration as a whole.

Reflecting back to my Green Team, I made my ‘presence’ thru a townhall meeting with team members and also witnessing every tournament my team competed against other teams in various sports categories in order to let them know that I cared and supported them alongside and all the way!  

Client: Wow! So, I shouldn’t miss my ‘executive presence’ whenever I lead my people, right?

Coach Atip: Absolutely! Executive or Leadership presence is vital for great leaders!  

Client: What’s the next trait of bad leadership? Is it the last one we’ll discuss about?

Coach Atip: Right. It’s the last trait we’ll discuss about for today due to our time constraint. The last trait is…

  1. Focusing on self’s interest rather than others’

Because the natural human instinct is to focus on self above others. However, transformational leaders think and act beyond their self-interest. Referring to Abraham Maslow’s work on his famous Hierarchy of Needs, if you still can recall.

For many years, self-actualization dominated Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs. For a quick refresher, here is the hierarchy as it was:

Self-actualization is at the top, with esteem below it, then love/belonging, then safety, and physiological needs at the bottom. This indicates that physiological needs are vital for survival and that they must be sated before one can move up towards actualization and fulfillment. In his early work, Maslow considered self-actualization the pinnacle of human development and the highest human need: the realization of one’s full potential.

Self-actualization is indeed a lofty (and worthy) goal of development and should not be cast aside in favor of the shiny new need, but self-transcendence is truly the “next level” of development; it is other-focused instead of self-focused and concerns higher goals than those which are self-serving.

Client: Wow! That’s really spiritually related. Can you give me some good examples of the leaders who exhibit self-transcendence leadership?

Coach Atip: Certainly! The great leaders who are great examples of ‘self-transcendence’ leadership trait are… Lord Buddha, King Rama 9 of Thailand, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa.

Client: As one of their followers, I can’t agree with you more!

Coach Atip: If you practice self-transcendence leadership, then you can become a transformational leader in the process!

Client: I see. But what’s a transformational leader again?

Coach Atip: You can read from my website’s article: “What’s a definition of transformational leadership?” I wrote about it quite lengthy there.

Client: Sure! I will read about it as soon as I complete my coaching session with you today.

After my client and I finished our leadership topic discussion, we continued on with our coaching conversation as usual.  

To summarize, the traits of bad leadership are as follows:

Lack of vision, poor communication, micromanagement, avoiding conflict, missing executive or leadership presence and focusing on self’s interest rather than others’.

If you want to remove these negative traits within you and replace them with the positive ones instead, you can get in touch with me via my homepage for a discovery session @ Home – The Best Coach International (thebest-coach-international.com)

To positive traits of leaders,

Advocate of ‘Coach-Fa-Mentor-Strategist-Diplomat’ skills