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6 negative leadership styles to avoid

6 Negative Leadership Styles to Avoid

Leaders are in a powerful position to influence — how they behave can inspire, motivate and innovate (or, the reverse). Being a leader is no easy task, but there are negative leadership styles that are ineffective at best and damaging at worst, which need to be avoided.

A leadership style is the behaviour a leader displays when they manage people. There are many different leadership styles which allow you to work in a way which is best suited to your personality. It provides you with the knowledge and awareness you need to get the most out of your team and bring success to the organisation you work for. 

In this article, Tony Gregg, Chief Executive at Executive Search firm, Anthony Gregg Partnership, reflects on how negative leadership styles can leave your team feeling unmotivated. Tony also emphasises the importance of adopting a leadership style that is well received by your team, matching the candidate’s leadership style to the right team.

Extreme micromanagement

Leaders micromanage their team members for a variety of reasons, including fear of loss of control and failure, belief that the team is unskilled and managerial inexperience. In fact, it often comes down to the leader’s own insecurities. It is vital that a leader has the self-awareness to change, because micromanagement is damaging for business and leads to a stressful working environment. As a result:

  • Staff are made to feel incapable 
  • Staff feel not trusted to do the job they are hired to do 
  • Productivity and innovation are decreased (fostering mediocrity)
  • Morale is lower
  • There is a higher staff turnover

Likewise, micromanaging will also negatively impact you as a leader:

  • Distracting you from your own duties 
  • Increasing stress, working longer hours; but without the output you need
  • Harming your efforts to progress your career 


The greatest leaders know that their way of doing things is not necessarily the best. They are self-aware, realising their own flaws and admitting when they do not have the expertise. They have no desire to be right all the time or profess to know it all. They employ people with different skill sets and approaches so that they can work together for the best possible result. 

On the other hand, an arrogant leader is narrow-minded and refuses to take advice from someone who is in a junior position to them. A leader who thinks like this will be missing out on talent and experience which will enrich the business.

If you recognise this in yourself, understand that you need others to achieve optimum results. Focus on the positive result and not how your staff members got there. Admit when a colleague has more knowledge than you on a certain topic and let them take the lead.

Poor organisation

A leader who is poorly organised will be less efficient and less effective in their role. Bad organisation can mean that you miss deadlines, confuse dates, miss meetings and generally become unreliable. Your staff will not respect a disorganised leader and will become resentful if they are having to deal with the consequences. This can result in decreased productivity as staff lack the motivation to work for someone whose poor organisation reflects a seeming absence of care. 

You can ensure that you are organised by knowing your team’s strengths, weaknesses and delegating effectively. You can also create open channels of communication so that you know what is happening at all times and can identify any potential issues. Finally, set goals and maintain efficiency by regularly reviewing processes. 

Lack of discipline

As a successful leader, you must identify your priorities and remain resolute and fixed on your goals. You need to instil routine and structure. A lack of focus and failure to pay attention to detail will let your team down and you will appear apathetic, or even lazy. You need to maintain concentration on the task at hand despite other distractions demanding your attention. Fortunately, self-discipline is an acquired skill — it takes practice. 

Closed-minded and inflexible

Closed-minded people don’t ask questions — they are more concerned with being right than with getting the best results. They don’t want to hear others’ ideas and theories. They can become quick to anger when challenged. This can hinder success as the leader will miss opportunities for innovation, growth and development. In fact, it is possible to adopt a collaborative leadership style — where you are still respected as the decision maker. You can avoid being a closed-minded and inflexible leader by asking others for their opinions, advice and feedback. You can make the most of learning opportunities by questioning and asking for help. 


A team needs autonomy to be able to work happily, but to avoid micromanagement they also need to understand what you want. They need to feel like they can come to you with any problem or query and that your reaction will be positive. An unpredictable manager will react to bad news differently, depending on their mood that day, which can lead to staff avoiding communication and being confused by mixed signals. You can prevent this by ensuring strong lines of communication, with regular check-ins.

Absent and unapproachable 

It is important to be present and approachable as a leader because people will feel comfortable enough to bring any issues to you. You will also gain their trust — the bedrock of a high-performing team. An open door policy encourages faster communication and  transparency, leading to increased productivity and efficiency. Without this policy, issues can get worse and staff can feel disgruntled. Leaders need to be spending a set part of each day supporting their staff, with regular one-to-one meetings and reviews. 

How to find your leadership style?

To find your leadership style, you need to consider how you behave when you are in charge of a team. You might realise that you change when you respond to different situations and you might recognise a variety of different leadership styles — some positive, some negative. The more self-analysis and introspection you can do, the easier it will be to identify ways in which you can improve. 

To begin with, ask yourself the following questions:

Do you like to take charge and command? You might be an authoritative leader.
Do you elevate your employees to greater success? This is common for a pace-setting leader.
Do you find delegating easy, trusting your employees to reach their own goals? This is a laissez-faire approach.
Do you get the most out of your team by recognising their strengths and weaknesses? You could be an affiliative leader. 
Do you value democracy, motivating all your team members to participate so that each person has a say? This is what a participative leader does.
Do you influence and inspire change in your work environment? This is common in transformational leadership. 

Finding an effective leadership style while avoiding toxic leadership traits is a powerful tool in unlocking potential — yours and your team’s. This is particularly true for companies going through uncertainty in today’s rapidly changing business climate, where your leadership style needs to stay agile. 

By Anthony Gregg