30 Bad Leadership Traits To Watch Out For

Bad leaders can ruin the mentality and optimism of the best employees. To ensure that you recognize the red flags of a bad leader, and to ensure that you never become a bad leader yourself, here are 30 bad leadership traits to look out for.

If you’ve ever had a bad a leader, then you know the damage it can do to your mental health.

No one should feel that their leader is unkind, untrustworthy, unhelpful, or any of the other bad leadership traits in this post, but unfortunately, it happens all to often.

If you or someone you know is dealing with a leader that embodies these characteristics, I encourage you to find a new leader that will respect you and not contribute any stress or anxiety to your life.

Life is too short to put up with a bad leader for months or years on end. Find a leader that encourages you, challenges you, and believes in you.


This post is all about 30 Bad Leadership Traits To Watch Out For. 

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30 Bad Leadership Traits To Watch Out For

Here are 30 bad leadership traits you should absolutely avoid!


1. Unkind

Great leaders know the importance of being kind to their team members. Everyone wants a leader who is kind, easy-going, and therefore easy to work for.

A leadership style that doesn’t involve kindness only causes stress and anxiety for the team members.


2. Apathetic

To be apathetic means to be uncaring. If a leader’s management style is apathetic, they likely don’t care about what their employees are going through on a personal level.

Leaders who have no empathy usually only care about the work that their team is getting done.

The best leaders, though, know that a person’s personal life affects the work that they do, and so you have to take care of the employees and ensure that they are OK if you expect them to do their best work.

The work-life balance of the team members is also very important to a great leader. If employees or team members are feeling burnt out and they express that to their leader, a good leader will help them navigate it.


3. Micromanaging

Some people in leadership positions like to micromanage. No one likes to be the person getting micromanaged.

It can feel like your leader doesn’t trust you, and it’s almost impossible to grow in your career if every move you make is being watched and critiqued.

An exceptional leader will give their team members a task and then give them the space they need to do it.

They are always there if their team members need help, but they trust them to get the job done on their own.


4. Impatient

Ineffective leaders are impatient. Impatience is one of those bad leadership qualities that can really affect the output of a team.

If a leader is impatient, they can rush their team to get things done and in result, their team could miss things or make mistakes because they are moving too fast.

A true leader knows that good things take time.


5. Untrustworthy

Being untrustworthy as a leader is easily one of the most disappointing characteristics of a bad leader.

If there is a lack of a trust amongst a team, the team members will not feel safe.

If they don’t feel safe, stress and anxiety skyrocket. The most competent leaders gain the trust of their team members and they do everything in their power to keep that trust.


6. Gossiper

Leaders don’t last very long in the business world if they like to gossip.

Gossip creates an environment of mistrust. Why would a team member feel comfortable being honest and vulnerable with their leader if they know there’s a good chance their leader may turn around and tell someone else?

The best leaders know that gossip is not necessary.


7. Poor listener

A leader with poor leadership skills may also be a poor listener.

If they are unable to listen to the needs of their team, they can’t address those needs.

If leaders don’t listen, they can’t help their team, and they miss important information or ideas that their teammates may be trying to tell them.


8. Unhelpful

If someone is in a leadership role, they have to be helpful. Leaders that are unhelpful are useless to their team – team members need someone that they can turn to for advice, direction, and wisdom.

If their leader is unhelpful, the team members are practically fending for themselves.


9. Blameful

A successful leader never blames. If anything, they take accountability when someone on their team makes a mistake.

Then, they work to ensure that the team member has the information or materials necessary to avoid that mistake in the future. The best leaders never play the blame game.


10. Irresponsible

A leader that can’t be trusted to do the things they say they will do is not a good leader at all.


11. Poor time management

Another one of the poor leadership qualities to add to this list is that of poor time management.

If a leader is constantly late, they can’t be trusted to show up when they say they will.

Likewise, if they are always missing deadlines, this can really effect the progress of big projects where many other people are involved and rely on the work that they do to get done on time.


12. Unfocused

A leader that is easily distracted is a very difficult leader to work with.

When a leader has a lack of focus, you can’t trust them to get their work done, or trust them to help you with your work effectively, either.

Effective managers and leaders stay focused and keep their priorities straight.


13. Poor communicator

Another bad leadership trait is poor communication skills. If a leader cannot effectively communicate, it will be hard for their team to get anything done.

Everyone needs to clearly understand each other and the mission of the team to ensure that everyone is on the same page.


14. Unethical

Bad leaders have a lack of ethics. They do not try to do the right thing, and they put their own self-interest before anything else.

On the other hand, great leaders always aim to do what is right, even if it means going against the status quo.


15. Dismissive

A leader who is dismissive can come off as rude or mean.

A better leader knows that they need to listen and take the requests of their team members seriously.


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16. Lack of vision

If leaders have a lack of vision or a lack of direction, then their team will be confused.

If the team is confused, they will not know what to focus on, and will end up making minimal progress, if any at all.

A team needs a clear vision and that starts with the leader clearly communicating the goals and direction of the team.


17. Unpredictable

Unpredictability can cause a lot of stress and employee dissatisfaction.

If a leader is trusted, it’s because their team can rely on them to be consistent and steady – not unpredictable.


18. Lack of expectations

The best way to ensure that a team stays on track and is clear about what is expected of them is to set expectations. If there are no expectations, there may not be any order.

If there isn’t order, the work environment can quickly turn into an unhealthy one.

Expectations and core values of the team must be communicated to the team on a consistent basis.


19. Ungrateful

Bad leaders never express their gratitude for the work of their team. There are a variety of ways to say “thank you”. You can say it in person, send it in an email, send the team member an award, etc.

At the end of the day, employees want to know that the work they are doing is appreciated.

If employees don’t feel appreciated, there should be no surprise for a team or a company if there is high employee turnover.


20. Intimidating

A great leader feels no need to be intimidating.

They may naturally come off this way to people if they hold a lot of power, but a great leader does not intentionally try to be intimidating – they’re focused on more important things like taking care of their team members and ensuring that everyone feels respected, appreciated, and taken care of so that they can do the best work possible.


21. Disrespectful

Bad leaders are disrespectful of people above them in rank, below them, or both.

No matter what someone’s position is relative to theirs, a great leader treats everyone equally. This is why they are so respected.

People know that a good leader they cares about being a good person, and they never let their ego get the best of them.


22. Selfish

Ineffective leadership involves being selfish and making decisions that benefit the leader, instead of benefiting the team.

The best leaders know that with being a leader comes a great deal of responsibility and that oftentimes a leader has to put the needs of the team before their own.

Great leaders are selfless.


23. Lack of accountability

When the team messes up, the leader should take accountability alongside the team.

The leader is responsible for the team, so if the team does something incorrectly or makes a mistake, it is the leader’s responsibility to take accountability for that mistake and work to ensure it doesn’t happen again moving forward.


24. Conflict-avoiding

Conflict happens. In a workplace or team where there are a lot of different people and backgrounds, conflict is inevitable.

Conflict can be worked through and handled efficiently if it is faced head on.

However, if a leader avoids conflict and doesn’t help their team work through it, this can cause major, lasting issues for the team.


25. Prideful

Another poor leadership quality is being prideful and having an ego. In leadership, you often have to swallow your pride or own up to your mistakes when you mess up.

Leaders are not favored when they can’t admit that they were wrong or admit that they made a mistake.

People would much rather work for leaders who are humble and can admit when they are wrong.


26. Indecisive

An indecisive leader is a confusing leader. When a leader is confusing or doesn’t make a decision, the team members aren’t sure how to move forward.

Oftentimes, leaders have to make difficult decisions. This comes with the territory.

Not only do leaders have to make difficult decisions, but they then have to commit to those decisions.

Otherwise, the team isn’t sure which direction they are going in and/or the work that they do after a decision is made could all be for nothing.


27. Close-minded

A bad leader does not consider differing perspectives and they believe that their thoughts and decisions are always superior.

However, a good leader knows that they are not always right and they are willing to listen to the opinions, thoughts, and ideas of others because they know that oftentimes, other people have much better ideas that they do.


28. Complaintive

No one wants to work for a leader who complains. When you are constantly surrounded by a leader who is openly negative about the job they do, it can be really hard to show up for work each day.

Some people don’t realize how much their negative mindsets affect others. It’s much better for a leader to refrain from complaining.


29. Exclusive

Bad leaders exclude or discriminate people based on gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

Great leaders never exclude anyone and they create an inclusive work culture that feels safe and inviting for everyone and anyone.


30. Unenthusiastic

It is so important for leaders to have a positive mindset so that their team members follow suit.

Why would anyone want to come to work for an unenthusiastic leader?


Good Leadership Qualities

On the other hand, here are some good leadership qualities. Great leaders embody the following characteristics effortlessly.


1. Honesty

Honesty is one of the best qualities of a good leader. You know that a good leader will always be honest with you, and will never give you the wrong information on purpose or lead you astray.


2. Trustworthy

Because great leaders are honest, they are also trustworthy. You can count on them to respect you, treat you fairly, and truly listen to you and try to help you when you express any needs or concerns that you have.


3. Judgment-free

Just as a great leader is honest with you, you can also be honest with them. They create a safe space and judgment-free zone so that you can express yourself however you need to.

As long as you keep things professional and respectful, great leaders are happy to hear you out.


4. Constructive feedback

Great leaders also offer constructive criticism and feedback that actually helps their team members grow.

They never give feedback for the purposes of bringing a team member down, but rather, they give positive, actionable feedback because they see the potential in their team members and want to see them thrive.


5. Kind

Great leaders are kind. They don’t feel the need to be mean or intimidating to get respect. They are respected because they treat everyone well and genuinely care about the people that work for them.


This post was all about 30 Bad Leadership Traits To Watch Out For. 


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A few years after graduating college, Taylor made it her mission to become debt free. After paying off all $60k of debt, she began to blog about what she's really passionate about: personal development. Nowadays, Taylor blogs about the topics of Mindset, Money, Health, and Career for women. Read more about Taylor here.

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