What makes a poor leader?

SimonLeadership1 Comment

I’ve been thinking about an interesting article I spotted on the Harvard Business Review website earlier on today about what makes a bad leader.

The research, based on a large-scale of business leaders, identified ten characteristics of poor leaders – as defined by 360 degree feedback . It notes that the characteristics typically exist in groups of three or four – as many of them are interlinked.

The ten characteristics, in descending order of importance, are:

  • Failure to inspire, owing to a lack of energy and enthusiasm.
  • Acceptance of mediocre performance in place of excellent results.
  • A lack of clear vision and direction.
  • An inability to collaborate and be a team player.
  • Failure to walk the talk.
  • Failure to improve and learn from mistakes.
  • An inability to lead change or innovate owing to a resistance to new ideas.
  • A failure to develop others.
  • Inept interpersonal skills.
  • Displays of bad judgement that leads to poor decisions.

No surprises really, but all the same it’s good to see them based on real evidence rather than the jargon-heavy evidence-poor management babble that you find in spades online.

But what struck me was the synonymous use of leader and boss in the article – making the assumption that a boss is always a leader, which is almost always the case, but also that a leader also needs to be a boss, which really isn’t the case.

Leadership exists at all levels and scales – but the transferable skills of leadership are pervasive – and are something that everyone can work on developing and honing – not just those people with line management responsibilities.

One Comment on “What makes a poor leader?”

  1. Paul Stallard

    There is definitely a difference between being a good boss and a leader. Look at Gordon Brown. A very capable man who was clearly brilliant but fell down at being a leader. Why? He didn’t have the ability to be a storyteller. All good leaders can tell a story and get people on side, make people think they are one of us but can also have the skills to take the group forward. Just because you are the boss doesn’t mean you are a leader.

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