Examples of Bad Leadership : Descending into the Dark Side

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Leadership’s Shadow Realm Unveiled: Crucial Insights into Bad Leadership Traits and Behaviours Every Manager Must Confront!

“A recent survey by Life Meets Work Consulting found that over half (56%) of employees have a toxic CEO, hurting workplace morale.” Most of us have experienced examples of bad leadership in our lives at some point. The effect of bad leadership is it can even damage the best of the people. Something similar happens when you have bad leaders in the organisation. They can derail the organisation with their bad leadership.

And the surprising thing is even with the best of intentions, one can be a bad leader. It is because they just don’t have any leadership skills, knowledge, and experience. Even the best talent in one’s field can fail at leadership.

That’s why it is important first to understand the traits and behaviour of a bad leader. We will understand the impact of bad leadership on the organisation and find solutions to fix the issue.

10 Examples of Bad Leadership Traits and Behaviours

Certain traits and behaviours are common among bad leaders. It is important to understand and identify them. Here are the examples of bad leadership traits and behaviours:

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Make a list of all these things to look out for!


1. Blaming Attitude

The most visible trait of bad leadership is an attitude of blaming when something goes south. They will immediately try to find people to blame rather than take responsibility for the situation. Instead of supporting others to find a solution, they hold others responsible. It is because they are insecure, not willing to take responsibility, and lack empathy.

The Enron scandal is one of the most infamous examples of bad leadership in real life. Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and Chairman Kenneth Lay, engaged in accounting fraud. The scandal led to Enron’s bankruptcy in 2001. It was the largest bankruptcy in US history, but Enron’s leadership refused to admit any wrongdoing.

2. Lack of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the capability to understand your own emotions and others’ emotions. Consequently, bad leaders lack emotional intelligence. This deficiency is replicated in their behaviour as a lack of empathy.

Consequently, they respond to sensitive situations in a manner that sends a message to others that they do not care. Consequently, it damages a leader’s reputation and undermines employees’ loyalty to the company.

Uber’s past CEO, Travis Kalanick, is among the most infamous examples of bad leadership in the workplace. A former engineer at the company spoke publicly about her experiences of sexual harassment at Uber. She said her managers did nothing to curb the behaviour. After a series of privacy scandals and complaints of sexual harassment, investors forced Mr Kalanick to resign in 2017.

3. Bad Leaders Don’t Listen

Bad leaders often are poor listeners. They do not listen to people around them. In addition, they always want to say something. It may be because they are too attached to their title in the organisation or don’t trust others to do the job.

On the other hand, when we look at great people’s leaders, they have this miraculous capability to listen to people patiently and connect with them. You cannot understand people and build a connection unless you listen to them.

According to research from The Workforce Institute, 75% of employees don’t feel heard on important workplace topics. This will eventually undermine the trust of employees in the organisation’s leaders because they know their leaders won’t listen.

WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann was forced out as CEO after the co-working startup’s failed IPO in 2019. Talking about his ego, he said that ego acts as a double-edged sword. His egotistical decision-making was the reason behind the failed IPO.

4. Incapability to Perceive Things in the Right Manner

Some leaders listen, but they don’t perceive the discussions positively. It is because they have a negative mindset. They run from the centre of insecurity. Moreover, they even perceive regular conversations as a personal attack. They try to defend their decisions and themselves at any cost. This results in misunderstandings, conflicts, and broken communication.

5. Poor Communication Skills

When you cannot listen to others patiently, it is hard to be good at communication. However, some leaders have all these things, yet they are not able to express themselves. This is due to the poor public communication skills.

Furthermore, they are not able to convey their message properly and bring clarity. This leads to confusion, resistance, and lack of accountability. Don’t let this happen to you and enroll in a trusted communications skills course.

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6. Urge to Micromanage

Bad leaders micromanage. It is one of the most visible examples of bad leadership in the workplace. It is because they do not trust others to do the job and micromanage. This results in resentment of the employees towards a leader. Especially experienced employees because they need autonomy to function at their best. Additionally, not trusting team members makes them feel they are not valued. This negatively impacts their performance and involvement.

In the same way, by micromanaging, a leader wastes their own time and the company’s resources. Because, despite delegating tasks, the leader is still involved in minute details.

7. Inability to Make Decisions

Poor leadership is often accompanied by the inability of a leader to make strong choices for the organisation. It paralyses the organisational processes. Because even after identifying the problem, the leader is too slow to take action. This results in losses to the organisation as necessary actions are not taken on time.

8. Resistance to Change

The role of a leader is to set the direction for the employees. Good leaders always stay on top of the game with a vision. They are willing to change to remain competitive in the industry.

On the other hand, bad leaders are limited to their existing knowledge. They want to continue to do things the way they have always done. Consequently, they ignore the industry trends and are resistant to change. As a result, it leads to the company using outdated technology and processes. Consequently, this leaves you far behind the competitors in the industry.

9. Negative Mindset

People look up to their leader for inspiration. If a leader has a negative mindset, it will directly influence the company culture. Because when you focus only on the negatives, it tells employees that their efforts are not cherished. This breeds toxicity in the company’s work environment.

10. Lack of Integrity

Integrity is one of the most desired qualities in a leader because they have to make decisions related to people. Bad leaders lack integrity. They fail to adhere to the company’s ethical values and moral values.

Further, they have favourites who get preferential treatment. This makes the whole decision-making process dishonest and breeds distrust in the management.

The distrust creates a toxic environment where employees do not feel happy and psychologically safe to work. Eventually, this leads to employees leaving the company. They do not want to work in a toxic work environment where they are not valued.

These examples of bad leadership help you identify the poor leaders in the organisation.

The Dark Side of Leadership: How It Can Impact the Organisation?

Bad leadership qualities have damaging effects on the organisation. Consequently, we have learned from examples of bad leadership how it affects even the best of people. Now, let’s take a look at some of the common pitfalls of bad leadership.

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This phenomenon can have a ripple effect in a bad way


1. Lower Morale of the Team

When employees are consistently not valued and appreciated for their efforts, it leads to the lower morale of the team. This results in disengagement from the work, poor performance, and hampered quality of work.

2. High Turnover

When employees are not happy due to the unfair treatment, they start looking for better opportunities. They lose trust in the leadership. They don’t want to work in an environment where they are not valued. This results in huge losses to companies as they have to hire new talent and train them.

3. Damage to the Reputation

When poorly treated employees leave the company, they tell others about their experiences. The unfair treatment comes into public knowledge through reviews, discussions, and interviews. This damages the company’s reputation massively. It leads to many challenges, such as not attracting top talent, investors’ reluctance to invest, and lost opportunities.

4. Creates a Toxic Environment

Bad leaders play favourites, lack integrity, and have biases. This creates an environment of distrust within a team and management. When there is a lack of trust and collaboration in the team, it results in poor team performance.

5. Lack of Accountability

When a leader does not want to take accountability, everyone tends to run from responsibility. It is because they don’t want to be blamed. It results in a lack of clarity of roles and expectations. This can derail organisational processes and lead to conflicts.

Solutions to Fix Issues of Bad Leadership to Fuel Growth

The positive light is one can build good leadership qualities. Opposite to the examples of bad leadership, there are characteristics of good leadership. Here are some practical solutions that can help organisations build leaders who can lead:

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Don’t worry, here’s the fix!


1. Leadership Training Program

To start, enrol your leaders in a leadership training program as it is the best way to build a strong foundation of leadership for leaders. Additionally, an expert will assess and identify the behaviours that are causing trouble. Subsequently, they will teach the leadership skills your leaders need to lead the teams effectively.

A variety of leadership training programs focus on teaching the soft skills you need. Moreover, it includes seminars on topics like communication, emotional intelligence, decision-making, and conflict resolution. These programs aim to enhance your abilities and prepare you for various challenges in leadership roles.

2. Clearly Define the Operational Processes

Clearly define the standard operating procedure of an organisation. It will include clearly defining the roles of leaders, team members, and managers.

Similarly, define the performance metrics and guidelines for every organisational function. This will help everyone understand their roles, boundaries, and company processes.

Not just that, having a standardised system helps you remove bias and make fair decisions.

3. Use Tools for Transparent Collaboration

Just having the right processes in place does not mean you can execute them. You need the right tools also to make sure you are executing the company’s processes. These tools include – project management software like ProofHub, collaboration tools like Slack, and performance management software like Bamboo HR.

4. Incorporate a System of Feedback

The best way to improve leadership in an organisation is to take feedback from the team. Firstly, ask the team members who are dealing with leaders and managers regularly for their feedback. Additionally, incorporate a system of feedback to receive feedback and suggestions from employees. By doing so, it will help you in big time.

5. Build a Culture of Fairness

Improving leadership in an organisation takes time and effort; however, as a leader, you need to make efforts in this direction and keep improving consistently. Furthermore, you need to establish company values and implement them actively to build them into company culture. Moreover, having a zero-tolerance policy against toxic leadership behaviours like micromanagement and favouritism is crucial. Additionally, you need to lead by example to inspire others.

Conclusion: Identify and Fix the Bad Leadership

Female manager on the phone talking about examples of bad leadership with pink letter B in the background
Finally, let’s wrap it all up!


Bad leadership has damaging effects on the organisation. But at the same time, good leadership can act as a catalyst for growth in the organisation. The focus on having good leadership in the organisation is good for your employees and also for your business. The way a leader acts has a direct influence on the employees. This, in turn, has an impact on the employee’s experience in the organisation.

You can easily identify bad leadership from examples of bad leadership traits.

Bad leadership means poor performance, a toxic work environment and a lack of trust in management. Thus, competent employees look for other opportunities out there. Whereas, good leadership means employees are engaged in their work and happy. Thus, they are working hard to make the organisation successful.

Frequently Asked Questions About Examples of Bad Leadership

1. Who is an Example of Bad Leadership?

The top three examples of bad leaders in the world are:

  • Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos.
  • Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber.
  • Thorsten Heins, CEO of BlackBerry.

2. Who is an Example of a Destructive Leader?

Jeffrey Skilling and Chairman Kenneth Lay, CEO of Enron Corporation, are examples of a destructive leader. Their accounting fraud led to the largest bankruptcy in US history. They didn’t accept their mistake and admit wrongdoing. It is one of the most common examples of bad leadership. But the court punished and jailed them.

3. What Are the Bad Behaviours of Leaders?

Bad behaviours of leaders include poor listening, egoism, lack of empathy, and micromanaging. In addition, indecisiveness, lack of accountability, and favouritism make one a bad leader.

4. What Companies Are Known for Bad Leadership?

The most infamous companies known for bad leadership in history are Enron, Kodak, Volkswagen, Uber, and Wells Fargo. Decisions made by their leaders are real-world examples of bad leadership. If you study them, you will understand what not to do when you are in leadership.

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