Characteristics of a Bad Leader That Can Harm Your Organization and What to Do About Them

Bad leaders can damage even the best organization. But what makes a leader “bad”? In many cases, it’s simply a factor of great employees being promoted into leadership positions without the background or experience required to help them excel in those positions. That’s a common situation facing many organizations.quote on great employee with a bad leadership

Unfortunately, while it’s good to promote from within, it’s not good to do so without planning to prepare new supervisors and managers with the right leadership training and information to help them excel in their new roles. Failing to do so sets the stage for a host of issues that can hamper productivity, engagement—and your bottom line. 

Here we take a look at the characteristics of a bad leader to help you stay alert to the warning signs that bad leaders may be in your midst. 

Why Leadership Matters 

Leadership is important in any organization. Employees need direction, support, coaching, and counseling to perform effectively in their roles and achieve organizational objectives.

Effective leaders ensure that employees know, specifically, what’s expected of them. They provide employees with feedback and direction. And they establish an environment of trust, respect, and collaboration to keep lines of communication open.

Ineffective leaders can do considerable damage—from negatively impacting productivity to driving employees away because of lack of engagement, trust, and support. Poor performance, poor product or service quality, and turnover are some of the common outcomes of bad leadership.

The Signs of Ineffective Leadership 

The signs of ineffective leadership aren’t hard to spot—communication issues, conflict, poor motivation, bad attitudes, and poor motivation to name a few. 

Ineffective leaders can do considerable damage to your organization. That’s why it’s so important to be alert to the signs that bad leaders are beginning to damage your company culture.

Characteristics of a Bad Leader 

characteristics of a bad leader

Here we take a look at 11 signs that you should be alert to. Recognizing these signs early and taking steps to turn bad situations around can help you protect your company’s bottom line and limit the negative impacts of employee dissatisfaction which can ultimately lead to turnover.

Poor Communication 

Poor communication is a classic sign of poor leadership. Poor communication is exhibited through employees not understanding what is expected of them, frequent mistakes or low-quality output, and unhealthy conflict. Ineffective leaders fail to clearly convey expectations or provide good feedback.

Lack of Integrity 

Leaders who lack integrity have a significant negative impact on trust. In addition, their lack of integrity can influence those around them. This can lead to a culture of dishonesty that threatens your company’s reputation. Employees look to their leaders to set an example for their own behavior—poor integrity sets a very bad example. 


When leaders are indecisive they are unable to provide clear and consistent direction to employees. Employees don’t know what they should do or what the standards of performance are. They’re unclear about how to perform their work leading to low productivity, errors and poor customer service. 

Resistance to Change 

Change is a constant in today’s global and increasingly competitive business environment. The pandemic certainly taught us that! Ineffective leaders are resistant to change, wanting to continue to do things the way they’ve always done them despite external evidence and pressure to change to be more innovative and competitive. 

Poor Conflict Resolution Skills 

Conflict is inevitable in any business setting. Ineffective leaders, unfortunately, have poor conflict resolution skills. That can result in damaged relationships among employees—and even with customers or clients. 

Lack of Accountability 

Ineffective leaders fail to hold themselves or their employees accountable to achieve desired goals or to produce high-quality work. Lack of accountability leads to low productivity, low quality, and poor service. Ultimately the company’s ability to achieve its goals is affected leading to lost opportunity and, potentially, damage to the brand. 

Ineffective Listener 

When leaders are poor listeners they are unable to leverage the value of employee input that could alert them to emerging problems or new opportunities. Ineffective listeners often miss key cues that could help them build better relationships and motivate their staff members.

Improving Bad Leadership Performance 

There are a number of characteristics of bad leaders that organizations need to be alert to. Identifying the early warning signs can help organizations take proactive steps to provide leaders with the information, leadership training, and experiences they need to improve their performance—and the performance of those around them.

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Categories: Leadership, Promoting Employees, Supervisory
Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Author: Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Lin is a business journalist and communication strategist with expertise in HR and employee relations. She is accredited through the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM-SCP) and Human Resource Certification Institute (SPHR) and writes frequently for SHRM, HR Daily Advisor, and a wide range of trade publications and corporate clients.