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What Makes for a Lousy Leader?

What Makes for a Lousy Leader?

In the book “The Pin Drop Principle” David Lewis and Riley Mills include the following list of ten lousy leadership practices. He suggests that Lousy leadership begins with self-protective attitudes – not lack of skills, intelligence, or talent.

Lousy leaders therefore:

  1. Need to know more than others.
  2. Can’t explore for fear of being wrong.
  3. Won’t ask obvious questions for fear of looking dumb.
  4. Need their egos stroked.
  5. Wonder who’s out to get them.
  6. Fear high performers; they need the spotlight.
  7. Struggle to collaborate.
  8. Won’t change their minds.
  9. Feel isolated and alone.
  10. Sacrifice long-term success for short-term profits.

When this list was posted to the Institutive of Leadership and Management’s LinkedIn group, in just over a week, 22 people had added 35 more items to the above as follows:

  1. Believes that it is only their personal contribution that counts to success of a project
  2. Blames others, especially their teams for lack of result/success
  3. Lacks integrity or doesn’t “walk the talk”
  4. Takes the troops for granted
  5. Sabotages success in order to remain in charge
  6. Engages in empire building
  7. Engages in “My way”/“no way” behaviour
  8. Behaves in a “jobs worth” manner
  9. Prefers to make people always work out of their comfort zone, rather than using them for the things they are good at
  10. Has a lack of self-awareness
  11. Thinks they are always right and that they always know the answer
  12. Adopts other’s ideas as their own
  13. Doesn’t give praise to the team where it’s due
  14. Wants to “rule” over their team instead of working with and/or within it
  15. Doesn’t deal with difficult people and/or situations and lets things fester until they become a major issue for the team/department
  16. Ignores team member experience
  17. Is unwilling to listen or discuss issues
  18. Is unethical
  19. Avoids contact with customers
  20. Has a “blinkered” approach
  21. Is unwilling to adapt to changes of circumstance
  22. Fails to understand the business objectives and capabilities
  23. Can’t admit that they’re wrong, or that they made a mistake
  24. Fails or refuses to show they have a human side
  25. Doesn’t praise but only blames
  26. Fails to seek personal accountability for a character weaknesses
  27. Is a “know-it-all”
  28. Lacks communication skills
  29. Treats workers as chattels
  30. Adopts an ‘us and them’ attitude and the ‘us’ lord it over the ‘them’
  31. Always use ‘stick’ never ‘carrot’
  32. Confuse “gravitas” with a failure to have a sense of humour
  33. Regularly deploy the phrase “If I don’t understand it nobody will”
  34. Actively resent any imparting of new knowledge by anyone else on the grounds that someone else knew something they didn’t…
  35. Often have low-self-esteem or self-worth issues

With such a comprehensive list, now we all know what to look out for and can perhaps invite these kind of leaders to get some developmental help and change their ways for the better at the earliest opportunity (for the sake of everyone over what may well be a long career).

With thanks to David Herbert, Christina Lattimer, Michael T Hughes, Don Griffiths, John Mark Williams, Steve Nevey, Tony Bennett, Shirley Howe, Simon Francis, Mary Turner, Andrew Healey, Mike Sharman, Glenn Bracey, Matthew Luke, Paul Dodd, Steven James, David Ausdahl, Jean Church, Yvonne Isherwood, Patricia Watson and Bob Hughes for their comments and input.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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