Terrible Leader

Recently, I asked participants in a leadership workshop to think about types of terrible leaders and give them a catchy name. We had a delightful interaction defining, and mildly joking about, the disruptive behaviors that are exhibited by some people in influential roles. The results of our dialogue are shown in the image within this blog.

From our class list along with other conversations I have had on this topic, I have identified four primary types of terrible leaders.


The messages communicated overtly or covertly by this person are….

  • “I’m in charge and you’re not.”
  • “I know more than you.”
  • “Do what I say or else.”
  • “Yes, I’m great.” Even though the team did all the work.
  • “That wasn’t my fault that was my team’s mistake.”


The messages of this person are…

  • “I have more important things to do than interact with you.”
  • “One moment, let me get this.” Then proceeds to answer a device.
  • “You can handle this on your own even though you are not trained.”


This person communicates messages that sound like…

  • “Those lousy clients can’t get it right.”
  • “Another organizational change. I’ve been through this irritating process a thousand times.”
  • “That team over there doesn’t have a clue, and they keep messing everything up for us.”
  • “Life is miserable and so are you.”


The messages communicated by this person are….

  • “Oh, I didn’t know that was my responsibility.”
  • “One-on-one coaching conversations are optional and not really important.”
  • “Our goals are….no our goals are…no really this time our goals are…”

These are four types of terrible leaders: Self-Centered, Disengaged, Disgruntled, and Oblivious. There are many more, as you know, that we will not cover. However, here is the truth. All of us exhibit some of these behaviors sometimes. Thus, it is important to recognize when we are exhibiting these “terrible leader” behaviors and adjust to thwart the negative consequences.

What terrible leader tendencies do you sometimes display?