The good, the bad and the ugly

How to tell a bad leader from a good one

You’ve met one, you’ve worked for one, hopefully you aren’t one…. bad leaders are everywhere. But what makes a bad leader? And how can you tell whether someone will be a bad leader before you invite him or her to lead your troops?

Before answering those questions, let’s take a step back and examine bad leader behaviors or BLBs for short.

More than anything, a bad leader is defined by what he does, or doesn’t, do. Here’s a list of ten, and therefore non-exhaustive, BLBs:

  1. Ineffective at inspiring and motivating employees.
  2. Provides unclear or conflicting direction. Or, doesn’t communicate expectations at all.
  3. Refuses to be held accountable and doesn’t hold others accountable.
  4. Responds emotionally to issues that would be resolved best logically. Or vice versa.
  5. Creates an environment of fear, mistrust, and paranoia. Plays employees off against one another.
  6. Demonstrates a lack of clear convictions.
  7. Won’t give credence to others’ opinions or viewpoint. Makes decisions in a vaccum.
  8. Looks for scapegoats when things go wrong. Withholds praise when things go right.
  9. Lies, cheats, etc. Steals credit for others’ work product or ideas.
  10. Insists on being the only subject matter expert on the team and therefore the only person qualified to make decisions of consequence. Hoards power.

Note that bad leadership can run from the relatively benign (basic inefficacy) to the destructive (toxicity).

Every organization has its own culture, and a leader deemed “bad” in one environment may be viewed as not-bad-at-all in another. And so, there are two primary challenges of appointing leadership: (1) Avoiding someone who’s just bad, and (2) avoiding someone who’s bad for your company.

For purposes of our discussion, we’ll define bad leadership very simply–

Bad Leadership (noun): Leadership that obstructs and/or limits organizational productivity.

Whether the obstruction is deliberate or accidental is immaterial. Obstruction is obstruction. (Of course, it’s important to have clear organizational objectives before making this assessment. Until you know what you want, you can’t really know if you’re getting it.)

Read on to learn how Omnia’s behavioral assessments can assist you in choosing the best leaders for your organization.

Omnia’s Leadership Assessment Helps to Paint a Picture

Omnia’s research has revealed 17 distinct leadership profiles:

  1. Visionary
  2. Consultative
  3. Practical
  4. Tenacious
  5. Collaborative
  6. Encouraging
  7. Logistical
  8. Mediating
  9. Strategic
  10. Innovative
  11. Precision
  12. Resourceful
  13. Consensus
  14. Planner
  15. Advocate
  16. Supportive
  17. Facilitator

While many of the individual leadership traits overlap, each style has its own strengths and potential drawbacks.

Omnia’s Leadership Assessment helps your organization define and understand the leadership style of potential or current managers. This information is key to efficient hiring and appointment of leadership, leadership development (i.e., determining whether and how your weak leader can be coached to better performance or is completely unsuited to the role), and team building.

The Assessment uncovers individual preferences for:

  • Winning versus security
  • People versus facts and figures
  • Variety versus stability
  • Freedom versus structure

The individual preferences are plotted on a simple 8-column graph that shows a “picture” of a personality.

For example, someone whose “winning” column is much higher than his “security” column is more assertive than collaborative or accommodating. People who have evenly matched “winning” and “security” columns are more likely to value and pursue win-win solutions.

What might some of these profiles look like in “real life?” Here are a few examples:

  • Innovative Irene: Irene is assertive, practical, fast-paced, resilient, and decisive. Both her staff and her superiors appreciate her objectivity and her ability to efficiently problem solve. Sometimes Irene’s tendency to move fast causes her to become irritable with people who need more time to “get it” before catching up with her. At those times she can be a little abrupt and forget that positive affirmation can be very motivating.
  • Collaborative Chuck: Chuck is upbeat, flexible, and accommodating. His strengths include diplomacy and a team approach to leadership. Chuck’s employees generally enjoy working with him but on occasion may become frustrated with his slow decision-making style. Chuck’s bosses appreciate his affability and cooperative spirit but sometimes worry that he lacks the sense of urgency needed for their fast-moving business.
  • Visionary Victor: Victor likes direct reports who are self-managing and highly competent. Anything less, and trouble generally ensues. Victor went through several assistants before getting paired with an excellent performer who’s also unflappable. Victor lacks patience, and he’s not particularly interested in developing other people. To Victor’s way of thinking, it feels too much like babysitting. Victor’s aggressive, outgoing, decisive leadership style allows him to get things done, but he struggles with connecting to staff emotionally. Victor is, by and large, all about the work, and he expects people to do their jobs with very little intervention from him.

The Bottom Line

While there’s a very real sense in which certain boss behaviors are bad all the time in any setting, there’s also a very real sense in which some behaviors are only ineffective (or effective) in certain settings. Finding the right leadership for your particular setting requires (1) a set of clear organizational objectives, (2) understanding your culture and the traits needed to succeed in that culture, and (3) measuring the presence of those traits in potential leaders. Omnia’s Leadership Assessment is a reliable and valid tool for doing just that.

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group.  She offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, weaknesses ... Web: Details

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