The Most Destructive Leader Trait

By | September 16, 2022

[September 16, 2022]  Much can be said about the many traits we find in the best of leaders; loyalty, morality, courage, accountability, etc.  Conversely, much has been written about destructive leader traits that damage their organization and act as impediments to excellence.  But among those destructive traits, which one is the most damaging?  Which is the most caustic factor that, if not corrected, will lead to the organization’s downfall?

We’ve all had unfortunate experiences with an overbearing boss or leader who maintained a toxic work environment.  Little scientific research has been done on destructive leaders because we rightly focus on those things we need to have 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 leaders discuss this topic because they are always looking 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 leader experiences, most would tell us that “arrogance” is the most destructive leader trait because it leads to some very perverse and unpredictable behavior by leaders.  Arrogance – having excessive pride in oneself and contempt for others – is closely tied to hostility in that 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’s stress.  Arrogance in humans limits their view of reality and distorts their understanding of the many factors that make for 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 new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on 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.

19 thoughts on “The Most Destructive Leader Trait

  1. Liz at Home

    Gen. Satterfield, thanks for this remarkable piece and I think we can all agree that narcissism is a horrible trait, for leaders or for anyone in particular. Being a me me me person has few benefits. Especially for others who are on the receiving end of narcissists. Thanks for what you do Gen. Satterfield. Keep up the great works you are doing.

    Reply
  2. Doug Smith

    Gen. Satterfield, you are doing a fine job of giving us some basic info that is important to know as a leader. Thank you for that. Also, you’ve now done this for nine years and I encourage you to keep it up. Your leadership website doesn’t require any money and neither do you beg for cash from us. I like that. I do encourage our readers to buy your book. Get it on Amazon. Folks won’t regret that decision. Support this website by getting the book. Thanks all.

    Reply
  3. ZB22

    I bet that a narcissistic boss can answer this question, “What is a woman?”

    Reply
      1. Army Captain

        Yeah, but a great question because you immediately know where they’re coming from if they start to stutter.

        Reply
  4. Max Foster

    Great article Gen. Satterfield on a topic more important that it might appear. Anyone who has been exposed to or has worked for a narcissistic boss has seen firsthand the havoc they wreak on other’s lives. Narcissists are known for making fantastic first impressions due to their ability to charm leaving candidates to accept job offers without knowing what they’re truly getting into. Eventually though, they feel duped as they discover that their boss isn’t the person they portrayed rather a narcissist in disguise. A narcissist boss is easy to spot.

    Reply
    1. Robo Cop II

      Max, as usual you have nailed it. I had a narcissistic boss once and I eventually quite, just for my sanity.

      Reply
  5. Nick Lighthouse

    Psychologists say that while some supervisors might show these tendencies from time to time, especially in high-pressure and stressful situations, a pathological narcissist tends to perpetually dwell on themselves and how they are saving the world.

    Reply
  6. Eric Coda

    “Once again I saved the day – without me they’re nothing!”
    ― Anonymous narcissist manager

    Reply
    1. Emma Archambeau

      Great quote, Eric. At the workplace, a pathologically narcissistic manager can be insensitive and conceited at best, and exploitative or abusive at worst.

      Reply
  7. Bryan Z. Lee

    Hmmmmm, made me think today and, yes, I have to agree that narcissism is the most destructive leader trait. But I will add that it is destructive wherever we find it. Thank you Gen. Satterfield for today’s article. If you could write more on narcissism, that would be great .

    Reply
  8. Stacey Borden

    No surprise there, narcissism is gaining ground in our kids today and teachers are teaching them that it’s A-okay.

    Reply
      1. Harry Man

        Mr. Asper, I’m sure as a High School teacher, you run into this all the time.

        Reply
      2. KenFBrown

        We can understand it but we don’t teach folks how to raise kids any more, nor do we provide them with relatives or trusted friends that live nearby.

        Reply
        1. Dead Pool Guy

          Good comments today in Gen. Satterfield’s leader forum. That’s why i read it daily and also have bought his book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq.” Get a copy and, “no” I don’t get a commission. Just have fun reading it.

          Reply

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