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Avoid the 10 qualities of the anti-leader

January 13th, 2011

Whether it be a long climb or an outstanding view from on high, what you see is a matter of where you are. Perception is a matter of perspective.



For example, those who consider themselves as realists are often branded as cynics by optimists.  Avowed pessimists will label those self-reported realists as too hopeful.  Despite the many perspectives, it is agreed that every worksite has a skeptic, one who doubts almost anything unless presented with compelling proof.


Yet, we can all learn a thing or two from balanced skepticism. Many writers and speakers implore us to focus on the positive.  However, that can lead to an unbalanced picture.


One cannot learn all of the painful and valuable lessons available when conditions are perpetually optimal. It is important to look at the all aspect of everything.  Skepticism is not necessarily fatalism. Just because one considers what could go wrong does not mean that one will automatically succumb to bad habits.


Leadership is a complicated topic, inspiring thousands of books, articles, and presentations.  Typically, we explore all of the positive attributes of what is commonly considered the archetypical good leader. 


Yet we can learn plenty about leadership from negative aspects.  Therefore, I am compiling what I consider to be the 10 qualities of the anti-leader in corrections.




1.     Accept fawning – Most leaders understand that coworkers will sometimes try to get into their good graces with insincerity.  In addition to this, some supervisors will actually enjoy (and expect) such behavior. This management style showcases preferential treatment and spawns resentment, lack of productivity.  It may even inspire sabotage.

2.     Inconsistency – Can you image operating under the chaos of shifting expectations?  It happens to some people every day. Some work shortcuts that are initially sanctioned by supervisors may be retracted quite quickly.  It is never easy for staff to understand discipline they may receive for an action that was appropriate just a few days earlier.

3.     Deceit – Lies, they say, will get you in the end.  Quite simply, many people hate liars.  But, it is worse when you are being led by a liar.  Once a supervisor has demonstrated the ability to willfully mislead, any other statement will be under strict scrutiny. Mendacity is not a winning quality for a leader. Whatever short term gains, this strategy is a losing proposition in the long run.

4.     Lack of respect toward superiors – It is difficult to feel respect for your manager when she does not ever try to hide her animosity for her supervisor.  That is one way that modeling can negatively impact professional relationships.

5.     Lack of respect toward peers – Managers should have a considerable understanding with their peers.  After all, they face the same basic challenges of the position.  Yet, when we see peer bashing among managers, the implication is that they are vying for primacy rather than cooperation. This sets the tone for unfriendly competition and back-biting.

6.     Lack of respect toward subordinates – While rank is important in our paramilitary paradigm, so, too is deference.  Yet, supervisors that show contempt send the message that their employees are truly subordinate and not important.

7.     Gossip – Information is good, for the most part.  It is easy to appreciate some knowledge, even if it gained by an unofficial communications vine.  Often, this prepares us for possible changes and to understand current situations.  However, mean-spirited gossip about a colleague’s personal life does not qualify for this sort of knowledge.  And when supervisors engage in this, one wonders what they are going to say about them.

8.     Indecision– One can change positions occasionally and still be considered as a decisive leader.  This is not to be confused with thoughtful contemplation of an issue.  Indecision is when a manager is frozen by the prospect of making a judgment. Indecision implies weakness.

9.     Division – Some managers maintain control of their employees by inspiring disunity in the ranks.  They are often adept at reading staff personalities. The Dividing Manager can turn two staff that operate with friendly competition into rivals.  That may increase production in some cases, though usually only in the short term.  But it also fosters animosity which can cripple a work area.

10. Egomaniac – It is one thing to acknowledge one’s abilities.  It is quite another to force others to kowtow to your overblown hubris.  Sometimes ego monsters are truly talented.  But their self-praise detracts from this.  Those who boast of their abilities and achievements will invariably chase away respect.  It is not difficult to follow someone who is confident.  Yet, it is hard to be lead by a pompous ass.




Why study the negative?  It serves to give examples contrary to what we expect.  It pays to look at the negative, as it pulls us out of a comfort zone. Good lessons are not always pleasant. And leaders who do not display the above negative qualities may even earn the respect of the skeptics.

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joebouchard Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

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