How to Know if You’re Dealing with a Weak Leader : John Mattone Global, Inc.

Poor leaders micromanage employees, fail to motivate them, and don’t provide relevant, clear feedback. Leaders focusing on the political aspects of their careers over employees tend to be poor at their jobs. Leadership coaching can help leaders realize where their true priorities should be.

We’ve all met our fair share of weak leaders in life. Does that boss who cares more about being right than achieving a positive outcome sound familiar? What about the guy who’s afraid to take a chance and always plays it safe? These are two less extreme examples of bad leadership. In worse cases, leaders demonstrate poor work ethics and lagging motivation. Some abuse their positions and turn authoritarian. Others don’t hesitate to show contempt for employees or the work they do.

Poor business leadership translates to financial ruin and ailing organizations.

rudderless ship

A poorly led organization is like a rudderless ship. 

Poorly led organizations lack vision and purpose. They may be chaotic and make employees feel hopeless. No one wants to belong to such an organization. With the risk of reiterating the obvious, I decided to revisit some telltale clues of poor leadership from the perspective of leadership coaching.

How to Spot a Poor Leader

The definition of poor leadership may differ from one person to another and from one executive coaching professional to another. However, we can all agree on some traits that blunt leadership and expose poor leaders.

Poor Decision-Making

Intelligent, strong leaders advocate change and know how to take calculated risks to embrace it. Good leaders make courageous decisions. Poor leaders stick to safety.

Good leaders have a profound understanding of what it means to make courageous decisions. In addition to making such decisions, they know they must allow others to do the same.

By sticking to safe decisions, poor leaders set poor examples. Reluctant to leave their comfort zones, they’re leaders in resisting change rather than its advocates.

Leadership coaching encourages leaders to strive to be better. Experienced executive coaching professionals know safe decisions seldom translate to smart decisions. Safe decisions represent justifications and rationalizations for less-than-optimal choices and predictably poor outcomes.

Some leaders play it safe to protect the feelings of reports. A leader’s job is to rock that boat and make good decisions regardless of how people feel about it.

Embracing Political Correctness

Whatever political correctness may mean in a given business situation, it’s seldom a path to optimal decisions. Some leaders stick to politically correct decisions to appease others and protect their images, reputations, and positions.

Intelligent leaders seek to make correct decisions. Instead of political considerations, they allow likely outcomes to guide them.

Micromanaging Employees

Poor leaders must keep tabs on employees by constantly checking on them. Micromanagement demonstrates a lack of trust and is incredibly disempowering. Micromanaged employees will never fully own the work they do. They will feel like unreliable cogs in a larger mechanism that play no significant roles in the quality of the outcomes they may or may not help create.

Micromanaging includes requiring teams to be in constant contact with higher leadership. Technology allows us to stay in contact constantly and effortlessly, but when leaders abuse it, constant contact quickly morphs into constant pressure, stress, anxiety, and resentment.


Micromanagement is the adversary of the employee. 

A leader’s role is to empower and motivate employees in that order. Empowered employees gain psychological stakes in the visions, missions, and accomplishments of their organizations. Knowing they own the efforts and results motivates employees.

Not Setting Expectations, Goals, and Objectives

Weak leaders often fail to set clear expectations and boundaries for employees. By not setting clear expectations, leaders don’t set directions and push employees into misalignment with organizational goals.

Business coaching can help leaders set relevant and achievable goals for their organizations.

Failing to Provide Feedback

Feedback is the language of effective leader-employee dialogue. Employees must know if they’re effective and aligned with organizational values. If they fall short, they need to know why they fail and what they can do to return to form.

Poor leaders are everywhere because organizations tolerate them. The job of a leader is to improve continuously, embrace change, motivate others, and make courageous decisions that lead to positive outcomes. Failing to accomplish these requirements makes you a poor leader regardless of your standing with executives.

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