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How Can You Tell Someone Has Really Bad Leadership Skills? Look for These 5 Signs

Do you work for this kind of boss now?

Courtesy of Andrii Yalanskyi / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Andrii Yalanskyi / Shutterstock

In my deep exploration to find the truth of what great leaders do to succeed, I keep coming back to one undeniable fact that rails against bad leadership: Good leadership is about serving the needs of people so they can reach their fullest potential.

To further counter the strongholds of bad leadership, here’s another, albeit smaller, truth bomb to your senses: High-performing individual contributors promoted to management roles, without the right human leadership competencies, have no business being in the esteemed role of caring for other human beings.

Rather than lift up the desired traits of great leadership for this entry, I’ll continue down the route of harsh truth and expose the kinds of bosses who can disengage employees and tear down organizations.

1. The bureaucratic boss

Want to see toxic, top-down management structure at work? Just look at the approval process to get a purchase order for a box of pens. In a hierarchy, there are so many levels of approval, so many committees, work groups, and councils that meet, and so many layers of management and steps required to make a final decision, employees get their motivational wind knocked out of them and ultimately suffer from the bureaucracy. It clearly communicates to them, “We don’t trust you.”

2. The information-hoarding boss

Managers with a penchant for hoarding information do it to wield their power and control their environment and the people in it. And the stifling exercise of power and control over people is the most effective way to kill trust. The reverse is a leader who acts responsibly by sharing information and displaying transparency with their team.

3. The uncivil boss

As Robert Sutton, Stanford professor and best-selling author, explains in The Asshole Survival Guide, when uncivil bosses treat people like crap, it destroys their focus and motivation; people are three times less likely to contribute at a high level. In fact, working under such bosses could literally be life-threatening. Swedish researchers at the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University studied more than 3,100 men over a 10-year period and found that workers’ risks for angina, heart attack, and death rose along with having worked for uncivil, toxic bosses. 

4. The boss who has no concern for your personal life 

Although flexible work schedules and remote work are on the rise, for the most part, a breed of current management still dictates and controls the amount of work and what hours their people will work. As a result, people’s personal or family lives are typically sacrificed for the job; overwork is commonly evidenced by 50-hour-plus workweeks, little or no vacation time, and 24/7 availability for work communication. Consequently, there are profound health risks involved through the effects of work stress, loss of sleep, and the conflict between work and other life roles. In one massive joint study by Harvard Business School and Stanford University, it was found that long work hours were associated with self-reported hypertension and unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking. 

5. The controlling boss

A manager who micromanages is, plain and simple, a control freak. The work environment is stifling, because he or she wants control over all decisions. This manager distrusts the team, so tasks rarely get delegated to others. Typically, you’ll find there’s hardly room for group discussion or input because the management style is autocratic, which limits creativity and desire to learn new things. Loyal workers trying to find meaning and purpose in their jobs are left with nothing but marching orders. It may be time to update your résumé​ if you work for a boss under such conditions.

This article was originally published on Inc.

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