Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Ineffective Leadership

Volume: May 2013


By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


What makes an effective leader? For many decades leadership consultants have listed traits, qualities and behaviors that are associated with top performing leaders. Theories have been created regarding the relationship of leaders and followers, as well as how to transform a group of individuals into a thriving team. Heck, a couple of months ago we here at Leadership Simplified published Leadership Principles That Deliver Results.


            Related: On May 17th, How To Make Your Leaders Soar!


In our search for what works for leaders, however, we often ignore the important topic of what does not work for leaders. Some interesting information regarding the foundations of bad leadership surfaced during a 2009 study conducted by Alan Bryman and Simon Lilley of the University of Leicester. While Messrs. Bryman and Lilley set out to determine what defined effective leadership, they ended up finding more details on the topic of ineffective leadership. In sum, they concluded that ineffective leaders are not trusted, operate with questionable integrity, fail to consult others while leading, and ignore problems. Let’s take a moment and examine each of these areas.


  1. Leaders who are not trusted. The level of trust that a leader builds is paramount to their success. Without trust, people will not follow a leader. Without trust, people will not go the extra mile. Without trust, people will not believe what a leader is telling them. If your goal is to be an ineffective leader, not building and reinforcing trust is a good place to start. 


  1. Leaders who operate with questionable integrity. Staying in integrity is a big part of building trust. So it makes sense that ineffective leaders would have low levels of integrity. In a nutshell, integrity means doing what we say we are going to do. During the course of work (and life) do well laid plans change? Of course they do. Leaders who stay in integrity communicate the changes, as well as the impact of the changes. Low integrity leaders simply continue to plod along – not informing team members of what is happening. If you find yourself out of integrity once in a while, watch out. You are playing with fire, and chipping away at your team’s trust.  


  1. Leaders who fail to consult with others while leading. Many leaders have the false notion that strong people make decisions on their own with little help from others. Few things are farther from the truth. While a leader must ultimately make decisions and be held accountable for them, the process they use to reach decisions should include others. In fact, effective leaders form some type of “circle of trust” that includes selected team members and colleagues. When these effective leaders are faced with tough decisions they seek the counsel of their circle of trust in order to be well-informed and reach a sound conclusion. Ineffective leaders often operate as lone wolves, making decisions as they see fit. One thing is for certain my friends, lone wolves die alone.   


  1. Leaders who ignore problems. A majority of people are non-confrontational. They want things to go along smoothly, and they avoid bumps in the road. Problems are bumps – big bumps in a leader’s road. A strange thing about problems is that they rarely go away on their own. Rather, a leader needs to recognize problems or potential problems and proactively drive actions that will minimize the negative aspects of problems. Look at leadership this way: Effective leaders enable problem-solving, ineffective leaders are problem-avoiders.


So in order to increase your effectiveness should you seek to be trusted, stay in integrity, consult with others while making decisions, and stop ignoring problems? Weirdly, the data does not conclusively say “yes.” However, if items 1 – 4 listed above describe your leadership mojo, almost anything would be more effective. In fact, if continued employment is on your bucket list, my recommendation is to give the opposite of ineffective leadership a whirl. The downside is minimal. 



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