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Poor Leadership Styles Can Destroy Your Organization

by Roger Ingles Senior Partner / EMP

We have all had them. Bad bosses who can make your life miserable and dampen your desire to go to work. Conflict in the workplace can be found inside almost every organization and at every level. This conflict is often the result of ineffective and poor leadership. Fifty-seven percent of employees leave their job because of a bad boss. The adage that people do not leave organizations, people leave people is very true. Have you ever had that boss that said, “Do it this way, because that is the way I told you to”? Even if your own experience shows that way is an ineffective method this boss insists you do something the only way, they have knowledge of doing it. The bad boss is often unwilling to look outside the box and try something new.

It is important for employees to understand the different types of bad leadership styles that they will encounter in their life. And those bosses, if allowed, will take you for granted until the day you leave. Throughout my career I have worked with some amazing people and leaders. I also have worked for some of the worst managers. I think seeing both the best that people can offer, and the worst allowed me to develop a style that was uniquely mine. Unfortunately, too many leaders are brought up through the lens of only one type of leadership model. It is important to recognize poor leadership when it presents itself and take steps to correct it.

The first style of poor leadership employees will encounter is the relationship challenged boss. No matter how hard you try this person does not let you get close to them. It can be extremely difficult to develop a good working relationship with someone who abhors relationships. The best approach you can take with a leader who is relationship adverse is to step back and look at what makes them this way. Anxiety, pressure from above they may be receiving, their own personality faults or traits and the weight of a heavy workload can create these types of leaders. Some leaders avoid relationship building because they do not have the confidence in what they are doing and don’t want to let anyone close enough to figure it out. By not developing relationships, work/life balance is nearly impossible to develop.

A second type of poor leader who can be ineffective in their role is the narcissist. They are great at giving job assignments and love to ask their employees to pull extra weight, but very seldom does it seem they are willing to share the successes. They care very little about the direct report’s happiness and only about their own. Transparency from leadership is crucial but the narcissist is the kind of leader who loves to be the boss and take credit for all the good things while blaming their staff for the failures. Employees are often asked to fall on the sword for these type of leaders with the belief the narcissist will take care of them later. Transparency does not exist with these types of leaders. Narcissists are great are keeping employees away from upper management or administration and often build a soundproof wall around them to avoid their superiors from hearing anything different than what they are sharing with them.

The third type of poor leader is the one who does not have the ability to delegate duties or responsibilities. Many people refer to this type of leader as the drill sergeant, but I find that offensive to drill sergeants. These managers lack vision and are often poor communicators who fail in their ability to define roles and responsibilities of the team. This type of leader will email, call, or text their staff at all hours of the night and do not provide any boundaries for their staff. It is easy to recognize these type of leaders as they destroy company culture and team effectiveness seemingly with ease. Turnover is high among the direct reports of this type of leader and while they usually develop a few close advisors, those advisors burn out and leave more rapidly than normal.

A fourth style of poor leadership is the micromanager. We all have seen those who want to be the leader of all projects and end up being the master of none. They over correct and are constantly making suggestions to their employees with little evidence of why the proposed change is needed other than they want to show their dominance. The micromanager is often paranoid and show no trust in their employees. They require busy work from their staff while interjecting themselves into projects creating mayhem. Micromanagers develop distrust with staff who are experts in their subject matter by offering suggestions and changes that are poorly thought out. Micromanagers want to be involved in every decision but often are the last to take the blame for any of them. They are great at deflection for failure and quick to assume credit when it is due.

A fifth style of poor leadership is the disrespectful boss. The disrespectful boss is normally a poor listener and will often shut down conversations or questions while providing no helpful response. A leader who is often willing to break confidentiality and share details of one employee with another is soon not trusted by anyone. Disrespectful leaders are often angry and will publicly shame and embarrass employees in front of others. They love to manipulate and play employees off one another. Seldom do these types of leaders apologize or admit a mistake. Employees fear these leaders because they do not want to face ridicule or the abuse they might bring. Employees who work every day in fear will not perform anywhere near their peak levels.

The sixth style of bad leadership is the tough boss. They are overly demanding and often will place unfair requirements on your work. They fail to define clear goals for you and constantly seem to move the goal posts. A boss who is too tough is not one who holds you accountable, that is a hoped-for norm, but one who holds you to levels you cannot possibly meet. They love to schedule meetings, hold zoom calls, phone calls and brainstorm sessions to discuss upcoming projects. Often doing in two hours what could be done in a two-minute email. These types of bosses destroy morale and make every day at work miserable.

The seventh style of poor leadership is the boss who over promises and under delivers. They love to try and make everyone happy and often will promise things that never come to fruition. Something inherently makes them unable to say no. In the hiring process they make claims about the position being interviewed that are not realistic. They provide promises to clients that the organization can not achieve. In discussions with staff, they are quick to blame their superiors for the inability of promises to be met.

The last style of a bad boss is the boss who is unhelpful or unsupportive and fails to give proper guidance or advice when asked. They display an amazing lack of empathy. A great example of an unhelpful boss is when an employee needs help and the poor leader says, “Let them figure it out, they always do.” Got a budget problem, fund raise more. Got a staffing problem, find more volunteers. Easy solutions of no real value are a staple of these bosses. Good employees who are good at their job are often taken for granted by these bosses. These bosses are so caught up in their own world, they fail to recognize what their staff is producing or going through.

It will cost an organization 33% of the annual salary of an employee to replace them. The US economy is said to suffer billions in losses annually according to a Gallup poll due to disengaged employees. Companies and organizations would be better served financially to provide leadership lessons and support to their administrators while recognizing the contributions of their employees to prevent employee exodus because of bad leadership.

All companies need to make sure they are not overlooking and taking for granted talented employees because you will never how much you will miss them until they are gone. No one description above fits every poor leader. The truly great bad bosses demonstrate examples or traits from several of these categories. Give your leadership and employees an opportunity to develop a championship culture by providing them the ability to grow and change together. An organization like Executive Management Partners can help you recognize the issues and develop a team effectiveness plan to keep everyone engaged and enthused about your organization. Stop losing talent because of a correctable problem!


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