Leadership Traits learned from bad bosses

Most people have gone through the experience of having a bad boss or working in a negative workplace. Perhaps you find yourself in that predicament right now and are looking for things to learn from your situation.

We’ve asked members of our Leadership Community what leadership traits they have learned from being in a bad workplace or working under a bad boss. Here is what they had to say:

Time Management


The boss of my job spent too much time networking and vetting out potential partners, and nothing ever got done. The leadership trait that I learned from having a boss that wasted billable time was to be reflective. When you’re a boss, not too many people will call you out on time management because they assume a boss knows what they’re doing. Good leaders have to be self aware of how they spend their time, reflective, and measure the results of their time management.

Singing a different tune behind closed doors

The boss I previously worked for had a tendency to praise employees in public, but criticize them in private. This created a lot of tension in the workplace. Trust was absent because we couldn’t take the leadership team for their word. As a result, I’ve always tried to do the opposite – praise in public or private when it’s deserved, and criticize in private with the individual.

Stifling Growth


A previous boss of mine hoarded major tasks and had a tendency to not delegate when delegation was needed. As a result, our organization and team members couldn’t grow with experience within such a controlled environment. Great leaders know when to delegate, step aside, and trust their people to do the job they were hired to do.

Make Employees Fearful of Being Fired


Many years ago I worked under a leader who constantly threatened (and occasionally did) fire people on a whim. Employees were always on edge at the workplace, and their productivity (mine included!) was negatively affected because the fear of losing your job always hung over our heads. Before long, employees started to leave because they couldn’t take it anymore. As I lead my organization today, I make sure to measure the pressure employees feel in their jobs by taking the time to talk with them and learn more about their performance. As a result of the candidness, clarity on both sides is able to exist.

Make Timely Decisions


I once worked for two gentlemen who find it very difficult to make decisions in enough time to act. I watched them drop the ball numerous times because they were too hesitant to act or because they diverged on an issue. Instead I make decisions quickly and I empower my team to make decisions. We’ve built a culture of failing fast, so if we’re wrong we know right away and pivot accordingly.
Michael King


Lack of Communication

Great leaders make a conscious decision to overcommunicate
 until their message is understood and acted upon. Bad bosses fail to understand that often times they have to communicate multiple times in several different ways before employee really comprehend and act on the message. Singular communication may work for some employees, but not all employees learn in this method. If messages are not understood, great leaders ask themselves about the best way to properly convey their message to get the best results.

Clip The Wings

The best leaders allow employees to spread their wings. They never clip them. There are several leaders today that are either physically or figuratively watching an employee’s every move. With that kind of leadership style, people can never fully spread their wings and fly. Leaders today understand that it’s okay to let situational failure occur on their watch. When employees fail, leaders will get together with the employee and help them understand where to correct their mistake moving forward.

Culture starts and stops at the top

An organizational culture – especially in founder and family led businesses – is often an extension of a leader’s personality. Employees follow leaders and mimic their behaviors. Ask yourself: are employees more influenced by a mission statement printed on a wall, or by the person directly managing them? A great leadership trait today is clearly defining the culture and ensuring that your actions are an extension of the culture.

Don’t just “see what happens”

“Seeing what happens” succeeds every time at just that – seeing what happens. A leadership trait leaders need to fall into are setting clear goals that aren’t ambiguous and murky. It’s impossible to be productive when measurements don’t exist. Ask employees to set goals and targets for themselves, and then sign off on them.

Understand that you’re not the smartest person in the room

If you’ve done a good job as a leader, one of your proudest accomplishments should be standing in a room with your team and acknowledging that you’re not the smartest person in the room. The leadership trait bad bosses ignore is surrounding themselves with inferior people, or convincing themselves that they know it all. No. Stop it. Learn from all your employees, and recognize that other employee’s talents will also help you grow as a leader, and will grow the business.

What leadership traits have you learned from bad bosses? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin. To learn more about the beliefs we have Y Scouts, click here.

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