Bad leader

This article explores poor leadership and the many occasions I have witnessed organisational leaders miss the mark big time!


After 16 years in the British Army, I was fortunate to have worked with several excellent leaders and many good ones. However, during that period and my recent years working in the private sector, I frequently saw poor leadership examples that boggled my mind.

Several examples have made it into this article, and I am reasonably confident that the narrative will resonate with you if you have experienced bad bosses.

Read on to find out more about how not to lead.

1. Remember, You are the Most Important Person in the Room

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When meeting with your team or external business stakeholders, it is critical that you let everyone know you are the most important person in the room.

You can achieve this by cutting off people halfway through their sentences and telling them to stop talking. Moreover, ensure you take the opportunity to assert your dominance by making the individual feel small and insignificant.

2. You Don’t Need Advice. You’re the Boss

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When an employee has the blatant audacity to overstep the mark by trying to give you advice, you must remind them of their lowly position. You can ask them if they are qualified to offer you advice as a (insert one of the following):

  • Minion
  • Underling
  • Junior
  • Pleb
  • Oxygen thief

By doing this, you will remind them not to offer you advice again and, importantly, reaffirm that opinions are like arseholes (everybody has one); however, your arsehole is the most important.

3. Always use the Stick to Get the Best from Your Team

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You may have seen other leaders encouraging their team members by using a carrot to motivate them. Please don’t do this; it is the employee’s job to be self-motivated, which is why they are paid.

The stick should be your weapon of choice; the carrot is for vegans and lesser mortals.

It would be best if you continued to use thinly veiled threats to encourage them to do what you say. Another effective gambit is to remind them how difficult it is to find a job in the current economic climate.

4. Ensure You Take all of the Credit

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When your team has achieved success by hitting targets and producing results, you must ensure you take all the kudos. Tell your team that victory is only possible with your strategic brilliance.

To further exploit this situation to its maximum potential, post on LinkedIn and remember not to tag your team members because they are unimportant.

5. Knowledge is Power

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Keep vital information to yourself and only relinquish it if you have to, such as an opportunity to save the day or make yourself look fabulous.

There is no need for strategic goals because staff only need to do what they are told; when you tell them to jump, they ask how high.

6. Empathy is Weakness; Leaders are Strong!

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So much talk has been written saying that leaders should be empathetic towards people in the workplace. What a complete load of nonsensical gibberish; leaders must teach their staff to man up and not bring home issues into the workplace. Who cares if their cat dies, that’s a home issue that staff should not bring into work.

If empathy is required, there is a whole HR department for such trivial matters. What do they even do?

7. Only Communicate by Email

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As the most crucial person in the business, you should keep your door closed and your calendar full to avoid being disturbed by lesser staff.

You can send multiple emails to staff simultaneously to save time, and you should only give the briefest context so they can exercise their initiative to understand what you mean.

And make sure to avoid having your phone on whilst at the golf course; it could cost you a round of beers.

8. Rank has its Privileges

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Because you are an awesome leader, you can do several things because of your high-ranking position that other staff members can’t:

  • Turn up late whenever you want
  • Put everything on expenses
  • Only stay in 5-star hotels
  • Fly business class
  • Drink when at work
  • Charge your electric car at work
  • Take unlimited sick days when you don’t fancy it
  • Shout at staff
  • Never work at weekends
  • Improve your golf handicap
  • Hang up on people during calls

9. Staff Don’t Need Training

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Training and coaching are not all it’s cut out to be; for example, it takes staff away from work and makes them think they are better than you because they have qualifications.

After completing the training, they return to work full of esteem and smug with self-importance. But there is more; they expect to be paid more after completing courses.

It is best to refrain from training staff so you can pay them as little as possible and use the budget saving for more important things like getting a massive TV in your office.

You can also tell them about your challenging route to the top and your graduation from the school of hard knocks to emphasise that it did you no harm.

10. Punish all Mistakes to Prevent Reoccurrence

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It would be best to punish mistakes punitively so that employees understand the consequences of their actions. Thus preventing a reoccurrence and ensuring that your staff are terrified of making mistakes that could hurt your bonus potential.

Don’t get caught up in the leadership and management terminology of organisational culture and continuous improvement. Bah, what a load of tripe; punish hard and punish often.


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Good leaders are strong and must remember their role at the top of everyone else. Look down from your pyramid with pride at your accomplishments; it does not matter how many people you have stepped on during your route to the top. It only matters that you got there.

The Moral of the Story

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There is so much that I have learned from witnessing bad leadership examples; one could argue that you know more bad leaders than good ones. 

My advice on bad leaders is never to become one by repeating or following their bad leadership examples. Do the opposite, and you will see better performance results from your team and be able to sleep at night.

And if you see yourself in the examples, you are a terrible person and should have a word with yourself as I did for the disparaging comment I once made regarding HR.

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