The Most Destructive Leader Trait

By | October 4, 2021

[October 4, 2021]  A lot can be said about the many traits we find in the best of leaders; loyalty, morals, courage, accountability, etc. Conversely, there has been much written about destructive leader characteristics, those traits that damage those inside their organization and act as impediments to excellence.  But among those destructive traits, which one is the most damaging? Which characteristic acts as an acidic factor that, if not corrected, will lead to the downfall of the organization?

While many have their ideas on this topic through the unfortunate experiences they’ve had over time, typically, that experience was with an overbearing boss or leader who maintained a toxic work environment. Little scientific research has been done because we rightly focus on what we need to be good leaders. Yet, there is no reason we cannot have science and experience combined to give us the most destructive leader trait.

Not unexpectedly, many senior leaders actually discuss this topic because they are always on the lookout for leaders who may express undesirable traits. For example, narcissistic leaders can be challenging to identify if one does not know the revealing signs. Recently one study identified this most destructive leader trait as “hostility.”1  The authors postulate that leader hostility was closely associated with low job satisfaction and anxiety in workers.

Using senior leader experiences, most would tell us that “arrogance” is the most destructive leader trait because it leads to perverse and unpredictable behavior. Arrogance – having excessive pride in oneself and contempt for others – is closely tied to hostility. Those who are arrogant are very much intolerant of anything short of perfection (and only they define perfection). Arrogant leaders believe only they can be right and others are wrong.

Arrogance is like blinders on a horse; the blinder limits the horse’s view of the surrounding environment and subjects the horse to stress. Arrogance in humans limits their view of reality and distorts their understanding of the many factors that make an effective workplace. Arrogance is a sign of a leader who is also unable to create long-term, effective teamwork. Such leaders are subject to failure and destructiveness that is predictable and unfortunate.

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  1. https://apollodelphi.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/destructive-leadrer-traits.pdf

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

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

25 thoughts on “The Most Destructive Leader Trait

  1. Frankie Boy

    Well, you nailed that one, Gen. Satterfield. I do love the way you write and draw conclusions in such a small space. Big time saver here. No BS. Love it.

    Reply
  2. Goalie for Cal State

    I’ve got to agree with you guys on this one. The real measure is in results (okay, and ethics). If results are good, then the leader trait is not destructive by definition. If bad, then so the logic goes.

    Reply
  3. Eli Sanders Jr.

    Gen. Satterfield, we written. Read this everybody, it makes sense….
    Arrogance is like blinders on a horse; the blinder limits the horse’s view of the surrounding environment and subjects the horse to stress. Arrogance in humans limits their view of reality and distorts their understanding of the many factors that make an effective workplace. Arrogance is a sign of a leader who is also unable to create long-term, effective teamwork. Such leaders are subject to failure and destructiveness that is predictable and unfortunate.

    Reply
  4. Delf "Jelly" Bryce

    Reminds me of the many recent directors of the FBI. All arrogant in their belief they are superior to us minions.

    Reply
    1. Frank Graham

      Jelly, you got that right. We are starting to see this so-called leader trait as something positive while it clearly has a destructive downside. The epitome of arrogance in WWII was Mussolini. And we know what happened to him and his henchmen.

      Reply
    2. Jordan Mascovich

      Well said, Mr. Bryce. I’ve been saying this for a long long time and nobody has been listening. Now we see folks coming around. The FBI needs a good clock cleaning. 🙏

      Reply
  5. American Girl

    Another powerful article from the mind of Gen. Satterfield. Ha Ha Ha…. not trying to butter you up or anything like that Gen. Satterfield but I do want to say your website is great.

    Reply
  6. Kenny Foster

    I’m a long-time fan of Gen. Satterfield’s website and I’ve learned a lot over the past few months reading his daily columns. I find those that comment in this leadership forum to be helpful as well. I wanted to thank you all. I’ve been working a lot more lately because many of my collogues would rather stay at home a collect a government check than work. I fan that awful. They are not doing themselves or our communities a favor. If our political leaders encourage this type of behavior, and they do, then shame on them all.

    Reply
  7. Laughing Monkey

    Gen. Satterfield, you are always hitting on great subject matter. How do you do it? I guess that any good observer of humans will find plenty of material to write about. BTW, I bought your book and expect it to arrive from Amazon sometime today. I’ll get back to you and write a review. Congratulations on your new book.

    Reply
  8. Max Foster

    In an innovative series of studies, psychologist Adam Fetterman of the Knowledge Media Research Center (Tuebingen, Germany) and colleagues investigated the behavior of people high and low in arrogance in response to stimuli that were high and low in power motivation. Their reasoning was that arrogance reflects an interpersonal quality which combines a desire to overpower others.

    Reply
    1. Harry Donner

      I’m not so sure we actually reward arrogance. Maybe there is a misunderstanding of what “arrogance” really is or is not. Just a thought. Gen. Satterfield has rightly put this issue out for us to discuss. Thanks all for your comments today.

      Reply
      1. JT Patterson

        Good point Harry,,,, I think that the study mentioned is too wrapped around a narrow definition and not as realistic ,,, just me thinking here.

        Reply
      1. Dog Man

        Right, the arrogant care more about winning than about friendships. 👍

        Reply
  9. Cat A Miss

    If you are unable to admit that you don’t know the answer to something, that means you have trouble accepting your own limitations.

    Reply
  10. Forrest Gump

    You were right, Gen. Satterfield, I guessed it…… ARROGANCE. And, of course, stupid is, as stupid does. Being stupid can help you be arrogant.

    Reply
    1. Guns are Us

      You got that right, Forrest. I too guessed it. But not really a guess because I know from personal experience.

      Reply
      1. Greg Heyman

        Hey, Guns, when people carry guns, we will all have to worry less about crazies running the streets like in most cities.

        Reply

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