Leaders to Avoid

Knowing which leaders to avoid emulating is as important as knowing which ones to follow. Who we follow influences our behavior positively or negatively and impacts our career development. While we can learn something from every leader, we would do well to limit our exposure to those in charge who don’t know who they are, where they are going, or treat people poorly.

Unstable Leaders

Building something that endures requires a solid foundation. So it is with leading. We have to know what we believe and why we believe it so that when difficult times come people can feel secure knowing who we are and won’t worry about what we might do.

We must do our best to avoid following people who cannot articulate their core values and those who can articulate them but do not live by them. While the future may look bright today, times change and the character of a person is only truly known when it is tested and they are squeezed. Whatever is deep inside is what comes out. If you aren’t sure what that might be, is it worth the risk to find out?

Leaders Lacking Foresight

It is amazing how many of us follow people that don’t have an idea of what the future they are leading us towards looks like.  They seem to live by the Winnie the Pooh philosophy, “I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been.” While I love the Pooh Bear since childhood, I would not make him my leader.

Not having clear direction produces extra work and frustrates people.

When we follow people without a vision we are sure to get lost along the way and none of us should be interested in spending our precious time on the side of the road without enough fuel to get us to our true destination. Better to go with the leader who has a clear vision that aligns with our values on a mission we believe in.

The Mean Leader

When we observe people in charge hurting others through disrespect, bullying, or passive aggressive behavior the rule “what goes around comes around” applies. This is our cue to take action. While we may not be able to stop the destruction without help, we can get out of the way and get as many people to safety as possible.

Hurt people, hurt people.  Those with deep problems or low EQ will struggle to create the safe places needed to build a brighter future for our organization. Better for us to identify new leaders to follow.


Don’t misunderstand, we are all responsible to grow our leadership capacity.  It is a journey after all.  Some people are still building their foundations.  Others have yet to find a dream big enough to inspire others to join them. If you have not found the person that shares your values or has a dream big enough for you to feel inspired, perhaps the leader that you have been looking to follow is you. Could it be time for you to become the leader others are waiting to follow?

Shepherding: The art of becoming the leader others want to follow.