By Hessa Al Ghurair

I believe you can learn from good leadership as often as you can learn from bad ones.

Many attribute cookie-cutter traits to good leadership such as: dominance, social boldness, self-assurance, or tough-mindedness.

However, extroverted executives are not always the best leaders and throwing elbows doesn’t always equate to professional progression.

Leadership styles aside, we are use to taking our learning cues from the “greats” but there is much to be learnt from the bad bosses.

Knowing what not to do is just as valuable in the corporate arena and presents numerous opportunities for you to hone your own leadership skills.

Here are the top five telltale signs of bad leadership and what we can learn from them.


Week leaders think they have all the answers. Have you even been in a conversation and you can feel the other person is just waiting for their turn to speak?

A know-it-all will position their expertise as the one-source of truth. They often don’t ask for feedback, second opinions or help.They have big egos and are usually defensive if their work is challenged by others. More importantly, they worry more about being right rather than achieving the right outcomes.

Good leaders know how to listen and take feedback. They create teams with diverse skill sets and strengths and they understand that you can never know everything so personal learning should never stop.

Protecting the status quo

Leaders who follow a “don’t rock the boat” approach have no place in modern day business. This type of leadership will only lead to static output, missed opportunities and disengaged teams.

They are unable to make the tough calls, they shy away from constructive confrontation and they smother out new growth or innovation.

By protecting the status quo they become blind to threatening situations or dismissive of new solutions.

There is no greater kiss-of-death than narrow-mindedness. Great leaders encourage diversity of thought and they take healthy risks. They are tuned into the changing dynamics in markets and industries and are open to transform. More importantly, they manage “above and beyond” rather than routine.

Broken compass

When you see a team running off in different directions or have murky perspectives on strategy, you know you have a boss that does not provide adequate direction. Generally, this is a red flag of a bad boss who is an ineffective communicator and has poor people management skills.

Good leaders provide a clear vision of the company and explanation of how each role contributes to strategic priorities. Teams are more motivated when they know their job plays a significant role in the overarching priorities of the business.

Fear of speaking up

A sure sign of a terrible leader is someone who manages by fear because they create teams who never speak-up. They motivate by force and they threaten, embarrass or intimidate. Managers who follow a public execution style of discipline, who have a zero tolerance policy for mistakes will smother out any creativity, knowledge sharing or learning on a team.

Good leaders manage by motivation and enthusiasm. They look at mistakes or failures as learning opportunities and they provide constructive, not destructive, criticism.

Bureaucracy Perfecto

We have all met this type of leader at one point in our career. They are quick to say no. They burden situations with endless red tape or layers of approvals. They use regulation to push away a problem. The generally serve as a bottleneck or gatekeeper. They lead from the sidelines and rarely get their hands dirty on their behalf. More importantly, they hesitate. Bureaucracy is an abuse of the privilege of leadership.

Great leaders empower teams, build cross-functional teams and suggest solutions rather than blockers.