Types of Bad Leadership

Bad leadership will result in diminished morale and productivity.
Bad leadership will result in diminished morale and productivity. (Image: Patrick Ryan/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Leadership ability, as author John Maxwell puts it, forms the lid for a team or organization. Failure, incompetence or negligence by leaders can result in lack of focus, diminished moral, decreased effectiveness and member turnover. A recent survey by the Army Research Institute showed that 35 percent of enlisted and soldiers and 26 percent of officers cited poor leadership as the reason they would leave the U.S. Army at the end of their terms.


This type of leader refuses or is reluctant to make decisions. He does not take his responsibility to render judgments and set policy and procedure seriously. This leader will defer to others and may allow someone else to actually take the point position. This is counterproductive, because it creates confused lines of authority and breeds infighting among team members who will vie for power, or refuse to follow the leadership of a person who does not carry the title or the technical authority of leadership.


An incompetent leader may lack basic managerial and leadership skills, or may possess low emotional intelligence as it relates to understanding the needs of others. It may be that she was promoted as the result of politics. Often, her subordinates have learned not to depend on her and to make decisions and take action on their own. This may serve to cover up the leader's incompetence and make it less visible to her superiors.


Toxic leadership stems from the leader whose personal character flaws and destructive or dysfunctional behaviors undermine the team. He is often selfish and may use coercion or backdoor scheming to accomplish his goals. Because he lacks self-confidence, he may perceive other competent personnel as threats and seek to undermine them. He often refuses to own up to his flaws or take responsibility for his behavior. The only solution may be his removal.


A positional leader holds a title, but little or no influence. Her subordinates may do only the minimum needed to keep their jobs, because they do not respect this type of leader. She may lack integrity, make poor decisions or act in ways that cost her respect. These types of leaders have often been promoted based on tenure or political connections, and not on their merits or competence.

Lack of Zeal

The worst leadership is offered by the person who does not want to lead. Many a great leader began as a reluctant recruit and later blossomed into a person of impact. However, leaders who are lazy, averse to responsibility or who otherwise don't value the cause don't accomplish much. It may seem cliché, but he who leads must at some point want to lead in order to command the respect of his peers and subordinates.

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