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BAD LEADERSHIP What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters By Barbara Kellerman Page 1 The book is all about the dark side of leadership and how you individuals get there and what we can do to avoid it. She suggests that leaders do not act alone and are not solely responsible for bad leaderships. There is no leadership without followship. If followers would just not follow a bad leader we could put a stop to the bad leadership. She has two main arguments throughout the book. The first is that leadership is either classified as ineffective or unethical.
The second argument is that you can break the whole bad leadership into seven types – incompetent, rigid, intemperate, callous, corrupt, insular, and evil. She talks about how writers of other books and schools that study leadership suggest that to become a leader is to become a good leader. The dark side then as she suggests that to limit leadership to good leadership presents three major problems. It is confusing and misleading and does a disservice. She goes on to talk about the reasons why we are bad. She states that “people in a state of nature are not, in the usually sense of the word, good.
This is not to insist that people are bad but rather that the human animal cannot be relied on to behave well. ”[i] I’m not so sure that I agree with this statement. She brings up a point that in the past, scholars believed that a leader’s traits, such as intelligence, were more important then any other variable when determining a leader’s ability. They now agree that there are other variables that need to be considered such as the situation, the nature of the task at hand, and the followers. Why do we follow leaders who behave badly?
She suggests it’s out of our need for safety and self-preservation. Getting along by going along is one of life’s early Page 2 lessons and so we need simplicity and stability. We do not want to lose our jobs so we keep quiet and keep things simple. Groups go along with bad leaders because even bad leaders can provide important benefits. Leaders maintain order, provide cohesion and identity, and do the collective work. Either in a group or as an individual, we find that it’s in our best interest to go with the flow and not stir the pot.
How can we expect to reduce the number of bad leaders though unless we reduce the number of bad followers like we probably all have been at one point in our career. She states that, “Bad leadership will not, cannot be stopped or slowed unless followers take responsibility for rewarding the good leaders and penalizing the bad ones. ”[ii] The first of Kellerman’s arguments is that bad leadership falls into two categories: ineffective and unethical. An ineffective leader “fails to produce the desired change.
For reasons that include missing traits, weak skills, strategies badly conceived, and tactics badly employed, ineffective leadership falls short of its intention. ”[iii] Whereas, unethical leaders may be very effective, they just don’t know the difference between right or wrong. Our textbook has a chapter on leadership ethics and social responsibility. The textbooks describes ethics as, “the study of moral obligations, or of separating right from wrong”, and morals as, “an individual’s determination of what is right or wrong”. [iv] I would suggest that they may know the difference, but they choose to ignore it.
She then goes on to her next argument that there are seven types of bad leadership: Incompetent, Rigid, Intemperate, Callous, Corrupt, Insular and Evil. She says Page 3 that the first three types (incompetent, rigid and intemperate) tend to be classified as ineffective leadership and the last four (callous, corrupt, insular and evil) are bad because of unethical behavior. She defines an incompetent leader as, “The leader and at least some followers lack the will or skill (or both) to sustain effective action. With regard to at least one important leadership challenge, they do not create positive change. [v] Leaders are incompetent for many reasons. Some lack experience, education or expertise and others lack drive, energy or the ability to focus. The instances I have recognized incompetent leaders are one’s in which someone was promoted only because of their longevity at the company and not because of their skills or expertise. I tend to call them worker bees who are great at being a worker bee, and then they get promoted to a leadership role because they are such a great worker bee, and then they fail. They don’t have the courage to step back and realize they are not meant to be leaders.
She defines Rigid Leadership as, “The leader and at least some followers are stiff and unyielding. Although they may be competent, they are unable or unwilling to adapt to new ideas, new information, or changing times. ”[vi] I think this has come into play in past couple of decades with the emergence of technology. There were leaders who were not use to the convenience of technology and it scared them. It scared them right out of their jobs though because they were using rigid leadership and not being able to adapt to the change. Page 4
Kellerman defines Interperate Leadership as, “The leader lacks self-control and is aided and abetted by followers who are unwilling or unable effectively to intervene. ”[vii] This is more of a private matter and very important for leaders to keep it that way. If these types of leaders lose self-control in public it can be very damaging to their reputation and to their followers. The book defines Callous Leadership as, “The leader and at least some followers are uncaring or unkind. Ignored or discounted are the needs, wants, and wishes of most members of the group or organization, especially subordinates. [viii] Leaders are supposed to consider what their employees want. She uses words such as power-sharing and team-building as examples of what leaders are suppose to be promoting. We read in our textbook that leaders are to empower their employees and let them make decisions and seek improvement. It states that “a dominant characteristic of effective leaders is their passion for their work and to some extent for the people who help them accomplish the work. ” The textbook has a section on team-based organizations and the role that the leader plays.
It defines 9 key roles of the leader and those are:
• Building trust and inspiring teamwork
• Coaching team members and group members toward higher levels of performance
• Facilitating and supporting the team’s decisions
• Expanding the team’s capabilities Page 5
• Creating a team identity
• Anticipating and influencing change
• Inspiring the team toward higher levels of performance
• Enabling and empowering group members to accomplish their work
• Encouraging team members to eliminate low-value work[ix] These are all roles that will help contribute to effective leadership and team building.
These types of organizations needs leaders who know the team process and can give feedback and resolve conflict. She defines Corrupt Leadership as, “The leader and at least some followers lie, cheat, or steal. To a degree that exceeds the norm, they put self-interest ahead of the public interest. ”[x] We have learned that there is no place that is immune to corrupt leaders, not even the church. Most of the time the corrupt leader is motivated by money. They are placing their personal interests over the welfare of the company and other employees.
It is important to remember that these types of leaders exist especially when you are a follower. Being a follower of these types of leaders can only bring you down as well if you choose to follow them. Insular Leadership is defined by her as, “The leader and at least some followers minimize or disregard the health and welfare of, ‘the other’—that is, those outside the group or organization for which they are directly responsible. ”[xi] It is in some sense, human nature to feel that your group, or family, or country competes with others and that Page 6 your group will always come first.
These leaders should look to more of a collaboration and cooperation rather then competition. The textbook suggests, as a way to build teamwork, that you encourage competition with another group. It says that, “one of the best-known methods of encouraging teamwork is rallying the support of the group against a real or imagined threat from the outside. ” It also goes on to say though that, “the leader should encourage rivalry, not intense competition that might lead to unethical business practices. ”[xii] The last style of leadership that she defines is, Evil Leadership.
She defines it as, “The leader and at least some followers commit atrocities. They use pain as an instrument of power. The harm done to men, women, and children is severe rather than slight. The harm can be physical, psychological, or both. ”[xiii] She focuses more in this section on the followers who follow these evil leaders. She suggests that they are just as much as evil if they do nothing and just follow along. She also suggests though that maybe they are a victim and are terrorized into following. She of course uses Saddam Hussein as an example of an evil leader, which I think we all could agree with.
Before I even read who the brief examples were about, he is who came to my mind. The textbook talks a little about the evil and the dark side of leadership in that of a charismatic leader. It states that, “some people believe that charismatic leadership can be exercised for evil purposes. Charismatic leaders are experts at promising Utopia. Since perfection is the end, often the most heinous actions can be tolerated as seemingly Page 7 necessary means to the end. ”[xiv] It goes on to talk about followers and why they follow these types of leaders.
The textbook states that it’s because of that leader’s personal magnetism. Overall, the costs of bad leadership cannot be known exactly. Not only does it cause pain and suffering to those directly affected by the bad leadership, but there are those that are indirectly affected such as family and friends. She does a great job describing the many different ways bad leadership develops and also gives way at the end to correct and fend off bad leadership. She says, “What is to be done? How can we all, leaders and followers alike, begin truly to correct for and prevent bad leadership? She makes three assumptions to answer these questions: “First, we cannot stop or slow bad leadership by changing human nature. Second, we cannot stop or slow bad leadership without stopping and slowing bad followship. Finally, we cannot stop or slow bad leadership by sticking our heads in the sand. ”[xv] ———————– [i] Bad Leadership (Kellerman, p. 15) [ii] Bad Leadership (Kellerman, p. 232) [iii] Bad Leadership (Kellerman, p. 33) [iv] Leadership (Durbin, p. 169) [v] Bad Leadership (Kellerman, p. 40) [vi] Bad Leadership (Kellerman, p. 41) [vii] Bad Leadership (Kellerman, p. 2) [viii] Bad Leadership (Kellerman, p. 43) [ix] Leadership (Durbin, p. 264) [x] Bad Leadership (Kellerman, p. 44) [xi] Bad Leadership (Kellerman p. 45) [xii] Leadership (Durbin, p. 271) [xiii] Bad Leadership (Kellerman, p. 46) [xiv] Leadership (Durbin, p. 91) [xv] Bad Leadership (Kellerman, p. 231 & 232) Page 8 REFERENCES Durbin, Andrew J. Leadership: Research Findings, Practice, and Skills. Fifth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company (2007). Kellerman, Barbara. Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters. Harvard Business School Press (2004). Page 9
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