Why Lousy Leaders Succeed

By Dan Rockwell

The worst result of bad leaders is they deflate the drive to be good. Why try, if lousy leaders succeed?

A few weeks back a reader asked why bad leaders succeed. His question has been a dripping faucet ever since.

Bad leaders are leaders too.

Some leaders have a title, but no results. Other’s have results, but crash and burn. John Stumpf, former CEO of Wells Fargo, oversaw the opening of at least 3.5 million fake accounts, for example.

Bad leaders are:

Unskilled in soft skills. Daniel Goleman discovered that emotional intelligence accounts for nearly 90% of the difference between average and star performers.

Over-skilled in soft skills. Even though emotional intelligence is twice as important as technical skill, technical skill is still necessary.

More bad leaders traits:

  1. Problem-centric vs. solution-centric.
  2. Blabbermouths.
  3. Defensive.
  4. Not curious.
  5. Over-helpful.
  6. Unethical.
  7. Isolated.
  8. Closed.
  9. Cold.
  10. Inflexible.
  11. Self-indulgent.
  12. Self-serving.
  13. Secretive.
  14. Inconsistent.
  15. Indecisive.
  16. Resistant to feedback.
  17. Ego driven.

(The above list started with only five traits. What’s on your list?)

Four reasons bad leaders succeed:

#1. Good people don’t speak up. Followers are ‘kind’ and tolerant.

#2. We tend to give too much credit for success to top leadership and too little honor to front-line employees.

#3. Others are the reason for their success. A great Chief Operating Officer makes a lousy CEO look good.

#4. Everyone is frail. If success requires perfection, no one will succeed.

If you have a lousy leader:

  1. Rise above negativity. (All successful leaders learn to maintain a positive attitude.)
  2. Learn what to avoid.
  3. Notice their strengths and learn. No one sucks at everything.
  4. Fill the gap. Compensate for their lousiness.
  5. Clarify your values. What’s important to you? Now live it.
  6. Develop grit.
  7. Practice gratitude. Negative situations stretch your gratitude muscle.

Aspire to good leadership because it’s who you are. Don’t let others control your life.

What potential advantages might be gained from a bad leader?

This post was previously published on Leadership Freak and is republished here with a Creative Commons license.

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Photo credit: iStock