The Most Destructive Leader Traits

By | September 6, 2021

[September 6, 2021]  A lot can be said about the many traits we find in the best of leaders; loyalty, moral courage, accountability, etc.  Conversely, much is written about destructive leader traits, those that damage those inside their organization and act as impediments to excellence.1

But among those destructive traits, which one is the most damaging?  Which trait 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 their own unfortunate experiences, 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 discuss this topic because they are 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.”2  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 trait because it leads to a person’s very 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.

However, I believe the most destructive trait of a leader is simply a lack of caring about others.  I don’t mean “caring” in the sense of some nebulous, “I sing for the world, Coke Cola song,” but genuine caring where one does tangible things to help others.  Caring motivates the leader to do well, and that empathy translates into loyalty and reinforces long-term, effective teamwork.

I’m always interested in what others think are the most destructive traits of leaders.  Let me hear from you.


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.

16 thoughts on “The Most Destructive Leader Traits

  1. Wendy Holmes

    Thank you Gen. Satterfield for a peak into the bad side of leadership. We should always be aware of it.

  2. Jeff Blackwater

    Another spot-on article, from Gen. Satterfield. I continue to look forward to opening my iPad everyday and going to this website for the latest in leadership news. This is surely the go-to blog for great leader tips. I’m never disappointed.

  3. Willie Strumburger

    Happy Labor Day to all Gen. Satterfield’s fans here in the forums and to all his readers as well.

  4. Max Foster

    Gen. Satterfield, this short list of the worst, most destructive leader traits is something you should expand upon for us and to help develop the idea that just looking at the ‘good’ side of leadership does not automatically tell us about the ‘bad’ side of it. For example, I would have thought betrayal would have been one of the worst traits of bad leaders. Just thinking here for a moment.

    1. Dead Pool Guy

      Yes, Max, I was hoping that Gen. Satterfield wrote more on the “betrayal” trait (bad trait) as well. That is why so many people are mad as hell at our President Joe Biden. He betrayed our allies, our troops, and the American people with his debacle in Afghanistan.

      1. Doc Blackshear

        Joe Biden is brain dead. The question is, “Who is really running the country?” Certainly somebody not elected.

        1. Tony Cappalo

          Hey Lynn, good to see you back on Gen. Satterfield’s leader forums. Oh, and Happy Labor Day to you and your family.

    2. KenFBrown

      Well said, Max and I agree. There are many horrible traits of leaders but I would like to ask about how such a person got to be a leader in the first place. Maybe they had other good traits.

  5. Eduardo Sanchez

    Great article, once again, Gen. Satterfield and this one fits right in to the Labor Day we all should celebrate. Of course, there are those who would rather take a government check and sit home drinking beer in their underwear and watch tv instead. Hey, but who am I to complain?

    1. Autistic Techie

      My favorite one in the article.
      “I was thinking that there should be more than one day a year honoring the efforts of hard-working workers like you. Have a great day!”

    2. Greg Heyman

      Thanks Tom. Always good to hear from you on this wonderful day. LABOR DAY.

  6. Janna Faulkner

    Loved the article, reminds me of my first boss. I think he had all these bad traits.


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