20 Characteristics of Weak Leaders

By | October 21, 2021

[October 21, 2021]  Command Sergeant Majors (CSM) are the U.S. Army’s most senior enlisted soldiers and all our military services have an equivalent.  They are highly respected and they give their wisdom and advice to senior commanders to help their units run smoothly.  One CSM once gave me his thoughts on why there are so many weak leaders … “we coddle the little twerps.”

Everybody has an opinion about what makes a weak leader and why.  I think that’s because we’ve all experienced poor leadership sometime in our lives and because we’ve also seen the ill effects of it.  Tragically, weak military leaders can get you killed, or poor business leaders will lead their companies into financial ruin.

I promised my wife I would one day write this article because she experienced such weak leadership at her last place of employment and was so disgusted that she quit.  She also gave me some good information to help write this piece, so special thanks to her.

The following list of 20 characteristics of weak leaders is from my experience and a little from my wife.  They are listed here in no particular order:

  1. Inability to make timely decisions, hesitation, and second-guessing
  2. Lack vision and ability to motivate
  3. Play it safe
  4. Unclear expectations
  5. Narrow-mindedness and lack of focus
  6. Arrogance
  7. Lack of control over emotions
  8. Favoritism, nepotism, bias, and prejudice
  9. Blaming others
  10. Refusing to take responsibility
  11. Pandering to please everyone
  12. Perfectionist mindset
  13. Hypocrisy (not doing what you say)
  14. Abusing leader privileges
  15. Over-optimism or over-pessimism
  16. Lack clarity of ideas, vision, or core values
  17. Complaining about a lack of resources
  18. Being insubordinate
  19. Not learning from mistakes, from mentors, or from experience
  20. Lack moral courage

We know that weak leadership is not just based on the character of the leader but is an interplay between the character of a leader, their leadership style, and their followers.1  What makes a leader weak is essential only in the context of how to make a weak leader stronger and more resilient; a difficult task because they frequently lack the motivation to change.


  1. https://www.theleadermaker.com/characteristics-of-a-bad-senior-leader/


Please read my newest book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

17 thoughts on “20 Characteristics of Weak Leaders

  1. Qassim

    “Lying” to yourself and others should be included. Biggest one left out of this list.

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      I agree that’s a big one all right. The first thing we learn today in school is to lie to others and then, the hardest, to lie to yourself. I see it all the time in kids who deny reality. Adults too. They cannot see what is happening because of ideological blinders they’ve voluntarily put on themselves. I spend a lot of time showing my HS kids how to take off the blinders.

      1. Janna Faulkner

        We need people like you everywhere, too bad you can’t teach in my school system.

  2. José Luis Rodriguez

    #20 Lack moral courage
    This is the most important and the most common failure.

  3. Greg Heyman

    Gen. Satterfield, I do believe you have a book signing coming up in a couple of days. Please take some pix and post them next week for us to see. Or put on your facebook page. We are, of course, big fans of yours. So …… good luck!!

  4. Nick Lighthouse

    Just got my coffee, petted my dog, sat down in my relaxing chair and started reading the comments here. Hey, let’s not get down on basic leadership. I know that we are seeing weak leadership in our politicains these days. Okay! There should be immediate pushback (polite but firm) and many are doing it. Be brave and willing to stand for what is right.

    1. Erleldech

      Yep, good point. Thanks Nick. — and now I’m having a cup of coffee as well. But my wife drinks hot tea (yuck).

      1. Pooch T.

        I do and a big dog too. “Grouch” is my dog’s name and he is trained to protect me. All 75 pounds of German Shepard.

  5. Willie Strumburger

    Gen. Satterfield has again nailed weak leadership to the wall of shame. If you are weak, know it, motivate yourself to do something about it, and work hard to strengthen yourself. It takes time so don’t despair. Keep working toward the goal of making yourself a better person.

  6. Jeff Blackwater

    Good article, few surprises here for those of us who are regular readers of this leadership blog. I could add a few more. Like being out of touch with reality. Case in point, look at Pres Joe Biden (FJB). There is a real case of extreme weak leadership. The result? People die and lives are ruined.

    1. Doug Smith

      Yes, follows a common theme here. Don’t lie, adopt responsibility, and keep yourself out of trouble with the law. Simple? Nopel

      1. Big Al

        Hi Jeff and Doug, this may be true, but it bears repeating often because so many don’t get the idea that it takes work to get someplace today. If you are lazy and stupid, things are tough.

      2. Bryan Z. Lee

        Very responsible to remind us all of those things we should be running away from.


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