Great businesses have great leadership and bad businesses have… well, bad leadership. You can always see a direct link between the two.

Great leaders inspire, motivate and challenge their employees to perform at their very best and by doing this, everyone wins. 

By contrast, businesses with bad leadership end up with unengaged, unmotivated and unhappy people which causes all sorts of problems such as employee retention, toxic cultures and poor performance and profitability.

So, if you have problems in your business, the first place you should look is at your leadership team.

Are your leaders leading your business and people in the way they should be? 

This is a tricky question to answer, which is why I’ve listed 5 traits in this guide that bad leaders have and need to stop doing. But first, let’s explore what leadership actually means…

What does leadership actually mean? 

Leadership is the process of guiding a team to achieve a common goal by understanding and leveraging individual motivations.

It has 4 integral elements…


Other people

The job to be done


While leadership and management are undoubtedly linked, they are not interchangeable.

In a very simplistic way, management typically refers to controlling a group to accomplish a goal. Leadership is the individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable people towards success. Leadership is about influence and inspiration, while management can be about power and control. Good managers can also be good leaders, but the skills certainly don’t always go hand in hand.

So, if you want to become a great leader, or more realistically, you’re looking to develop some excellent future leaders in your business, what are the 5 things you must absolutely stop doing right away?

Being vain

Bad leaders are vain enough to think that the future performance of the business can be driven by them and them alone. This can make them appear rude and disrespectful to other employees, it can stop them from recognising the achievements of others on their team, and it can even lead to them taking credit for others’ work or ideas (or worse, blaming others for their failures).

A great leader realises that it takes a whole team to be successful. And a team that works well together, too, because they understand the common goal and what it means to reach it.

A great leader also understands that there is a direct correlation between how engaged and motivated their team is, and how productive and profitable their business can be.

Forgetting your impact

A leader should always remember their actions have a direct effect on their team. That effect can positively or negatively impact motivation, performance, and engagement every single day. Not just for one or two people, but for the entire team.

Picture this: the team hits a target that positions them a great deal closer to their big, shared goal. They’re thrilled. But their leader fails to acknowledge the achievement. What impact is that likely to have on the team and its individuals?

Great leaders understand that they need to work with their team to keep them happy and engaged. And that employees are not there working for them. They do not dismiss their team’s needs in favour of their own.

Communicating badly

Good communication can be the key to success in many areas of life - at work it's no different.

Bad leaders fail to realise the importance of good communication. And by good communication, I mean effective communication.

Poor leaders may neglect to speak to their teams enough, forget to make sure everyone understands what they’re doing, or ignore training needs. But on the other side of the coin, they may also bombard their people with too many emails, meetings, or conversations and still fail to effectively communicate their message.

Both can lead to poor morale, disengagement, and a loss of direction. It can leave people feeling confused about what they’re supposed to be doing and what their goals are.

Great leaders understand the importance of effective communication and what it looks like. Messages, whatever their format, are crystal clear and there is always an opportunity or offer of clarification should anyone need it.

This style of communication leaves people in no doubt of what they’re supposed to be doing, how, and when.

Forgetting about individuals

Bad leaders don’t understand the value of the individual approach, as well as a collective approach.

It can become a prime focus for a bad leader to attempt to inspire the whole team with one standard approach. But as we all know, what’s a motivator for one person isn’t necessarily very helpful for the next.

What great leaders realise is that by taking an individual approach they’ll understand what motivates and inspires each and every person within a team. That could mean that one person is driven by public praise for reaching an achievement, while another may prefer to hit a goal to help gain further skills.

By taking an individual approach, a great leader will also gain a better insight into the training needs of each person, rather than simply spotting a skill gap and not being able to fix it.

A lot of this boils down to good listening. A great leader will take the time to genuinely listen to their team at any time. They’ll understand any issues that are being faced and have a good grasp of what is going well at any time, too. In turn, this can develop better trust within the business, improved loyalty, and an overall better business culture.

Not giving feedback

I’ve already talked about bad leaders failing to recognise a job well done, but somewhat worse than that is the bad leader that fails to provide feedback on anything.

Performance reviews are one thing, but it’s likely these are held annually or maybe not at all if you have a bad leader in charge. The annual approach means every piece of feedback is stored all year long and unleashed on an employee in one swoop.....not the most effective.

Even for the best employees this can be overwhelming and hold back their professional development. For an employee who needs to make improvements it can leave a lot of time wasted when any issues could have been tackled and overcome a lot more quickly if feedback was given sooner.

Great leaders understand the value of regular feedback. They hold more frequent 121 meetings with individuals and aren’t afraid to schedule additional conversations to offer guidance, help, and advice where they see fit.

This all helps to build on that trusting relationship and allows employees who are truly engaged to grow and develop at a much faster pace.

It can also be an effective way of showing people what their progression could look like in the company, giving them further drive to push themselves.


There will be lots of other traits that bad leaders have but these are 5 of the most common things I see in businesses all too frequently.

The good news is, once you’ve spotted these traits it means you can do something about them. What that looks like for your business depends on how far the problem has gone. It could mean some training is needed for leaders, or it may mean creating personal development plans, issuing informal warnings or something else.

If you’ve identified an issue with the leaders in your business, I’d love to help you put it right. If you need a hand, arrange a conversation with me HERE