What is the Worst Leadership Styles and Why

People who study leadership theory learn about numerous styles of leadership: autocratic, democratic, strategic, transformational—on and on. It can be interesting to debate the pros and cons of each.

But whatever theory you subscribe to—or if you’re a self-taught leader who doesn’t believe in theories—there are some styles of leadership that are always detrimental. Here are a few of the worst:

Know-it-all leadership. People don’t admire leaders who pretend to know everything and insist that whatever they do is right. Leaders who think they’re smarter than everyone else create isolation and quickly come to be resented by their peers and the people on their team.

Absent leadership. Some leaders are physically absent—always away at a meeting or conference, wandering somewhere else in the building or working from home. Many more are physically present and may even pride themselves on being accessible because their office door is always open. But if they’re distracted and checked out, never really listening or pitching in, they might as well be somewhere else.

Inflexible leadership. A leader’s behavior is the single biggest factor they bring to bear on influencing others. Agile, creative leadership has the power to energize, engage and motivate people to go the extra mile for their organization. But a leader who’s inflexible and stubborn creates demotivation, poor performance, frequent absences, and high turnover.

Micromanaging leadership. Micromanagement has a devastating effect on even the best teams, destroying morale and productivity. Part of the problem is that most micromanagers aren’t even aware of what they’re doing. They’re often the ones saying “I don’t believe in micromanagement, but…”. Effective leadership means a commitment to focus on the big picture and on motivating employees, not standing over their shoulder.

Self-serving leadership. Ego can undermine leadership in two ways. The first is false pride, when you focus on self-promotion and making yourself look good even at the expense of your team or peers. The second is self-doubt or fear, when you lose confidence and question yourself and your abilities. They move in different directions, but they’re equally destructive.

Leadership by intimidation. Those who lead from fear are often terrified of looking weak, but in trying to look strong they fail themselves and their team. Instead of sharing a vision that motivates, they threaten and complain. Instead of analyzing problems and looking for solutions, they focus on placing blame. Talented team members find new options, leaving only mediocre performers who are lacking enough in confidence to allow themselves to be bullied on a daily basis.

At the end of the day, every leader has their own preferred style. The important thing is to be aware of what style you’re putting out there and to check in periodically to make sure it’s serving your team and yourself well.

Lead from within: It’s said that the best sign of a good leader is not how many followers they have, but how many leaders they create. If your leadership style is right, your influence will quickly spread.


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After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Don Price

    25. Jun, 2020

    Hi Lolly,
    Great article. In my experience the Leadership by Intimidation is number one on the list above. Employees that are paralyzed by fear are generally afraid to provide solutions and think creatively and the result is a stagnant department that doesn’t get better.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      02. Jul, 2020

      There are all kinds of bad leadership styles and most of them intimidate, undermine and scare people. The best leaders lead to empower people, not to disempower them.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Kerry Anne

    29. Jun, 2020

    So true Lolly! Only by working on your “inside game” can any leader learn how to combat these negative styles which many of us can exhibit on our “bad days” whether we like to admit it or not.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      02. Jul, 2020

      It always starts by leading from within, once you know your inner moral compass, than you can work from the inside out.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Justin Jennings

    04. Jul, 2020

    You are absolutely right Lolly about these leadership styles. I have worked for practically all of them and it can make each day dreadful. Fortunately, I have also had the chance to work for leaders that believe in creating more leaders. Those are the leaders that I aspire to be more like.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Vhinz

    06. Jul, 2020

    Know-it-all and micromanaging kind of leadership is what I have already experienced and I can definitely agree that these two are the worst type of leaderships I have ever seen.

    Reply to this comment


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