3 Traits of Bad Leadership

Posted on September 12, 2014.

Is it just me, or is really bad leadership becoming more commonplace? This week, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner seems to be the latest example of leadership “don’ts”. Earlier this year, we saw Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie stripped of his Chairman title for making controversial statements. So what traits lead to bad leadership?

1.     Dishonesty. It seems clear now that Mr. Goodell wasn’t honest about not knowing what went down in the elevator between former Raven’s player, Ray Rice and his then fiancée.  It reminds me of my former CEO, Ken Lewis, who was recently fined $25 million for misleading investors about the extent of the Merrill Lynch losses. Both men denied knowledge they clearly had.  Dishonesty can lead to public humiliation, job loss, and fines or,in the case of Bernie Madoff, long term prison sentences. But the reality is that most dishonest leaders have zero consequences, except for lower moral and higher than normal turnover. More typical of every day dishonesty are bosses who have:

·      Told you were doing a great job, but then denied you a promotion, or demoted you.

·      Told you there would be no layoffs in your department days before severance packages were delivered.

2.     Disrespect.  You could make the argument that dishonesty is a form of disrespect. After all, if someone respected you, they wouldn’t lie to you.  But disrespect can go much deeper.  When Mr. Jeffries says he only “ markets to cool, good-looking people”, he’s disrespecting everyone out there that thinks they’re an average, maybe not so cool person. It’s just another type of bullying.  Leaders that allow their organizations to discriminate are completely disrespectful of anyone who may offer some diversity.  Who wants to work for that guy or gal?

3.    Egotism.  Webster’s defines egotism as, “the feeling or belief that you are better, more important, and more talented than other people”.  Egotism results in leaders surrounding themselves with “yes” men and women.  They create an environment where people are afraid to disagree. People blindly going along with bad decisions can have catastrophic results. Just look at the mortgage fraud that went on for years at Countrywide until Eileen Foster blew the whistle but lost her job because of it.

When I see the news on Roger Goodell, I don’t think about the underlying controversy as much as his role as a leader within the NFL and how he’s failed.  Professional sports has enough “bad stuff” going on within the rank and file of the athletes that leadership should set a better example.