20 Poor Leadership Qualities & How To Deal With Them

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Thousands of individuals consider themselves leaders. Most of them strive to do their best for their team and are actively engaged in their positions.

In reality, though, most managers and leaders are not utilizing their leadership skills to their full potential. A majority of leaders have poor leadership qualities that go unaddressed for long periods of time.

This can significantly impact not just you, but it has a negative impact on your entire team. But, there are steps you can take to subdue your bad leadership qualities and help you lead your team to success.

In this article, we will discuss what poor leadership looks like and how you can improve your leading abilities.

20 Poor Leadership Qualities & How To Deal With Them

What is Bad Leadership? Let’s Define It

It’s crucial to understand what leadership is before you begin trying to improve your skills. Leadership is one’s ability to direct a team. It involves inspiring others, coordinating events, and making major decisions for an organization.

Bad leadership is a leader’s inability to perform the above-listed tasks. They let their team down, do not utilize their leadership position to their full potential, and do not achieve their goals. Often, this means someone’s leadership strategy might focus into their weaknesses instead of their strengths.

These qualities sometimes mask a leader’s strengths and make it more challenging to perform well. Every leader has weaknesses, but it is key to find what they are and manage them if you want to maximize success.

20 Characteristics and Warning Signs of Bad Leadership

To ensure you are the best leader possible, it’s crucial to know about common bad leadership behaviors and weaknesses. You might not necessarily possess these qualities, but pay extra attention to the following warning signs of poor leadership: 

Avoids conflicts

To some degree, avoiding conflict can be a positive trait. But, typically, if there is zero conflict and a leader has no adversaries whatsoever, this is a signal they did not speak up enough. They may have not truly stood for something.

Great leaders stand up for their beliefs and their teams, and sometimes, this means entering conflicts. Leadership is not just about avoiding conflict; it also includes managing proper conflict.

No Self-Development and Self-Growth

Leaders should be lifelong learners. They should constantly be seeking to improve themselves (not just for their own benefit, but also for the team). Never growing and staying stagnant hurts the team’s innovation and effectiveness.

Selfish and Egoistic

For some leaders, egoism is a major problem. Being in a position of power can bring about such feelings. However, being selfish and egotistical is off-putting to team members.

This results in employees not trusting their leader, being uncomfortable, and generally viewing their leader negatively.

Not accountable

Accountability is a crucial part of any relationship. It is especially important for leaders. Not being accountable can hurt your reputation and it makes you seem untrustworthy. And, few employees want to be around a leader who isn’t upfront and accountable.

Lack of Work Ethic

If the leader expect your employees to work hard (like most leaders do), then why shouldn’t they also? The leader sets the example for the entire team. If they are lazy and unproductive, this sends a message that this behavior is tolerated by the team, leading to lack of goal achievement.

Bad listener

You need to listen to your employees. Doing so shows you care about them, which empowers them, boosts positivity, and increases productivity.

Bad listeners seem like they are uninterested and unconcerned, which is the wrong message to send to employees.

Blaming others

This is directly tied to accountability. You need to ensure you admit your faults and mistakes, and create an environment where others feel comfortable to do the same. Otherwise, you will build up a culture of secrecy and lack of trust.

Blaming others

No empathy

Empathy is an immensely important soft skill for anyone, and especially for managers or leaders. Empathy helps you properly communicate with employees, inspire them, and make long-term connections with them.

Ineffective leaders that lack empathy typically have a difficult time inspiring their employees and often have communication issues.


You should give your employees autonomy and independence. Doing so shows you trust them and assures them of their competence.

If you micromanage them, they may feel like you are obsessive or controlling, which leads to uncomfortable feelings and employees feeling incapable of performing their duties.

Lack of Vision and Focus

The best leaders have a clear focus and purpose behind their work. This allows them to feel like their work is meaningful and encourages them to keep working, even when times get tough.

Not having a vision leaves you prone to giving up quickly. It also makes it more challenging to hone your skills and focus on specific tasks.

Lack of Respect

If you demand respect from others, you need to ensure you give it to them first. Doing this helps with building stronger bonds between you and employees. It also contributes to a more positive company culture.

Lack of Self-Awareness

Leaders need to know their strengths and weaknesses. That way, you can focus on doing the things you are truly good at, and delegate other tasks to your employees. If you follow this tip, you can boost team efficiency and productivity. 

Lack of Adaptability and Flexibility

It’s good to have standards as a leader. However, you also need to be reasonable. Being too inflexible can be off-putting to employees, which makes it harder to attract the best candidates and makes employees stressed.

Since the world is changing rapidly, adaptability is also necessary for your success. By adapting quickly, you can boost team efficiency and ensure time and customers aren’t lost due to slow change.

Poor Communication Skills

As a leader, you will be communicating every day. Whether speaking with employees, colleagues, customers, or mentors, your communication skills truly need to be refined to succeed in such a position. Without these skills, you miss out on a plethora of growth opportunities.

Focuses on features rather than performance (Ineffective)

Focusing on mostly the features, or the minor added benefits of a product, rather than the overall performance can be a serious leadership red flag.

This means the leader knit picks small details while ignoring major issues with a product. It can also lead to isolating clients and employees alike.

Being too critical

Providing a healthy level of constructive feedback is great for employees. But, being too critical can lead to a lack of confidence amongst team members. In the end, this will negatively impact their productivity and passion, which are serious side effects of of over-criticism.


Just like not having enough confidence can negatively impact teams, so can having too much. It is all about balance. Being too arrogant can send the wrong signal to employees, making them less interested in being open with you in fear of being judged.

It can also negatively impact your decision-making skills, as you might overlook your weaknesses and make reckless bets.

Lack of creativity

Leaders should be creative and innovative. They need to offer products that customers haven’t seen before, or have significant improvements when compared to the competition. The status quo typically doesn’t impress customers, after all.

If a leader does not help their team stay creative, they risk losing their market position to the competition. There would be no reason for customers to choose them over the other producers.

Not setting clear goals

Your employees need to be on the same page as you when it comes to goals. That way, you can act as a cohesive unit. Without clear goals, your team may be unfocused and end up achieving less than they otherwise could have.

Second-guessing oneself and their team

Being cautious can be beneficial in certain circumstances. However, in many industries, decisions need to be made in a timely manner. This involves rapid analysis and avoiding second-guessing oneself. Otherwise, you may not be able to stay on track as a leader.

How To Deal with Bad Leadership?

Now that you know some tell-tale signs of poor leadership abilities, you might be pondering: is there a way to deal with these issues?

Luckily, there are numerous strategies you could use to become a better leader. Some of the most effective strategies are listed below.

Try not to focus on the leader

You need to ensure your entire team feels included. There must be a mission, values, and goals that are greater than you as the leader. These are the factors that should be focused on.

Focusing too much on the leader can make you seem self-centered or arrogant. This sends a negative signal to the entire team.

Set healthy limits

There need to be boundaries to your role as a leader. Do not micromanage others, and do not take on more than you can handle.

Encourage your employees to also set healthy limits and make the most of their careers. For instance, you could encourage breaks and stay flexible with your workers.

Do not sabotage

Sabotaging others will make you seem insecure and ineffective. Not only does sabotaging others hurt others, such as your own employees, but also hurts you. You will not be as effective of a leader if you focus on bringing others down, as this only breeds negativity.

Clarify any doubts

If someone has questions, it is your job as the leader to answer them. Communicate clearly with employees and ensure instructions are direct.

If employees are doubting their role on the team, or questioning their careers in general, be there for them. Listen to their needs, and help them understand their options and how you can assist them.

Take care of yourself

Set a good example for your team by taking care of yourself. Ensure you present yourself in the best light by eating properly, resting adequately, and practicing self care. That way, employees are more likely to do the same, which leads to more productivity and positivity.

Effects of Poor & Bad Leadership

Poor leadership not only hurts you, but it also slows down your entire team. In fact, a leader’s skills can often make of break their team. Without effective leadership, even the best teams can get bogged down.

Effects of Poor & Bad Leadership

This is why being a great leader is critically important. A few of the worst effects that come with bad leadership are:

Getting a leader is hard, and getting rid of a bad one is even more difficult.

Leaders often like to cling to power. Whether it be historically or even in modern companies, it can be very difficult to remove a poor leader from their executive position.

However, leaving an incompetent leader in that spot could lead to many inefficiencies, developing a negative company culture, and decreased goal achievement.

Bad leaders impact team performance

A leader will set the stage for model behaviors they want their team to follow. If the leader shows negative qualities consistently, employees are more likely to pick up on those qualities.

From there, these negative behaviors can build up, and start to impact every aspect of team performance. From attitude to productivity, it can all begin to falter as soon as leadership begins to fail.

The development of each team member suffers from poor leadership

With poor leadership comes stagnation. Individuals will no longer feel inspired to push themselves to achieve their goals. They may not work hard. Some even lose their passion entirely. This is especially true with young and more vulnerable employees.

The working environment becomes chaotic and unpleasant.

Great leaders are also fantastic organizers. They know how to manage large groups of people, delegate effectively, and ensure the work is done as efficiently as possible.

Without such a leader, the workplace can quickly become chaotic and overwhelming. This can lead to conflict and slowed working pace, as well as a more unpleasant workplace overall.

Losses within the work environment increase

The company may start losing out on marketing share if they have ineffective leadership. This could mean potentially millions of dollars are lost.

In addition, companies with subpar leaders often miss out on attracting the best workers. The team may also miss out on reaching their goals, attracting customers, and building a strong reputation.

Poor Leadership Qualities FAQ

How do you identify a bad leader?

There are some common traits and habits that signify poor leadership. For instance, bad leaders are typically not committed and do not have a vision. They are poorly organized, impulsive, have a hard time communicating with others, and often maintain negative mindsets.

In general, if a leader is holding back their team, not inspiring them, and not assisting them in times of need, that individual is likely a bad leader.