What makes a poor leader?

What makes a poor leader?

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.


I work with technology-centric businesses as an interim Chief Operating Officer (COO), consultant and advisor. I created the B3 framework® for scaling technology businesses and I write a newsletter called Build for leaders who are building brilliant companies.