The Worst Leadership Styles


There’s a million different ways to lead a business into a more profitable tomorrow, and similarly, there’s - often forgotten - behaviours that will lead a business to implode. I’m in a fortunate position to speak about this objectively, as i’ve got decades of experience under my belt, and a core part of our business is to analyse how other organisations are running.

Let’s discuss some of the things to avoid if you’re in, or aspiring to be in a leadership position in an organisation. Some are more common sense than others, but you’d be surprised how often leaders disregard the basics, and begin to breed a toxic culture in their organisation that more often than not begins to eat at profitability and sustainability from the inside out.

Leading like an Autocrat

Being atop the business food chain can drastically alter a person’s behaviour. I’ve seen it in countless organisations, exhibited by friend and foe alike. By definition, an autocrat rules with absolute power, and if this is the way you want to do business, you’re going to severely limit your potential. Your potential to both reach absolute success, and the potential to influence your staff and stakeholders in a healthy, productive way. There are exceptions to the rule, no doubt. Steve Jobs, as we’ve discovered ruled with somewhat of an iron fist as he transformed Apple into the powerhouse that it is today.

The psychology behind what i’m talking about centers on being a transformative leader: one that can adapt to leading different people, in different ways. Diving one level deeper, this is largely to do with people’s love languages, a concept that Gary Chapman has been teaching about for decades now. An autocrat doesn’t take this into account, and therefore won’t influence the team they lead in a sustainable way. You want to breed a culture of approachability and a willingness to solve problems with your staff. On a side note, having an open-door policy at work is the best way to appear approachable to your staff. After all, there’s only so much whip cracking you can do before you alienate and infuriate your staff.

Buck Passing

The phrase “the buck stops with me” exists for a good reason. It’s a poker term that has been recontextualised into any situation where people fail to take responsibility, and they pass the buck on to the next unlucky person. In essence, what we’re talking about here is accountability - or lack thereof - which is an inescapable part of human nature. No one wants to look as though they’ve underperformed or let down their manager, however, it’s significantly worse to consistently pass the buck to make yourself look better.

Leaders of all people in the business need to take this into account. An inspirational leader takes the good with the bad, and should be responsible for the mistakes and lacklustre performances of the team. In essence, the buck stops with the leader, and if they’re failing to be accountable, they’re not a true leader. Much like newspaper editors that are mandated to take the fall for their staff, a leader in the business must be prepared to take responsibility, even if they’re not directly at fault.

Disregarding their duty as a role model with integrity

A key part of that subtitle is the word integrity. ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ springs to mind when I think about this. The most effective leaders I’ve come in contact with lead by example… It’s as simple as that. Succeeding in business is largely due to the people you’ve got in the organisation, so you want to attract the best people possible to work for you. If you’re a person that lacks integrity, you’ll find a revolving door suddenly installed in your office.

On that note, you can set high expectations for your staff, but if you yourself don’t meet those expectations, you can’t expect everyone in the business to meet - and maintain - a high standard. In light of that, a leader should exhibit all the virtues of integrity, which will - wittingly or not - inspire your stakeholders and your staff.

Lack of Vision / Tunnel Vision

‘We exist to make money’ is something that you’ll never hear from the higher-ups of a successful business. Profit is the by-product of the organisation achieving its core goals, and treating its stakeholders exactly how they expect to be treated. When the management team or CEO lack a driving goal or vision, this can be toxic to the culture of an organisation. In a lot of ways, this vision is what you’re selling to prospective staff, clients and stakeholders, so you want something big, bold and inspiring. The staff below you will be much more inclined to come to work on a Monday morning if they feel inspired by the company’s mission. They’ll realise that their efforts will have a tangible impact on achieving the company’s goal, and this buy-in is invaluable when it comes to retaining staff, and keeping them engaged. It’s important to note that you don’t want to over emphasise this focus, however.

While a vision is essential to the success and profitability of your business, tunnel vision can send you down the wrong path; and by the time you realise, it can be too late. Adaptability is key in business, and while your mission statement and your vision shouldn’t change radically overnight, the way in which you reach your goals requires you to adapt to the dynamic requirements of your stakeholders and the wider market. The worst examples I’ve seen in this context have driven otherwise successful businesses.

Hopefully by this stage, you'll be better equipped to spot evidence of bad leadership in the organisation, or be inclined to make some adjustments to how you run your organisation to usher in some more productive days ahead.

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