The Worst Leader Trait

By | September 20, 2021

[September 20, 2021]  A lot can be said about the many traits we find in the best of leaders: loyalty, morally courageous, accountability, etc.  Conversely, there has been little 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 actually 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, at least informally, 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 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.2

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.

Arrogance is the worst leader trait because it is the one that allows someone to fall into evil.  Because an arrogant person believes they are superior to others, what they do must, by definition, be the right thing to do.  If that means killing, torture, corruption, theft, etc., then the “ends justify the means.”  And, that is why Socialism is an evil ideology as well.


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.

15 thoughts on “The Worst Leader Trait

    1. corralesdon

      Indecisiveness – Every decision a leader makes is subject to opinion and there are always at least two. Most of the time many more. But leaders are called to make decisions when no one else can or will. Indecisiveness stalls progress and frustrates people. Yet I have talked with countless staff members of very large church who say their senior pastor can’t or won’t make decisions. This is the best one that I read in his article.

  1. Bryan Z. Lee

    Avoids or does not deal with conflict. This is another one that we might consider.

  2. Rusty D

    “Arrogance is the worst leader trait because it is the one that allows someone to fall into evil. Because an arrogant person believes they are superior to others, what they do must, by definition, be the right thing to do. ” The core of this article should not be overlooked. Your comments on Socialism is also spot on.

  3. Army Captain

    Hi, Gen. Satterfield, good Monday morning and I hope you are well today. Thanks for your website. I’ve been a regular reader for a long time and have made comments in your leadership forum now and again. Please continue your site. Recently you had the 8th anniversary. Congrats. Today’s today is worthy of further discussion. I am requesting that you do a follow up article or two. Much appreciated.

    1. Georgie B.

      Yes, I’m sure that would be a valuable part of this website as well. Thanks, Army Captain. 😊

  4. Silly Man

    Well written article today, Gen. Satterfield and it gives me something to think about while I head off to work. My friends at work are interested in some of the topics you put up for discussion. Some are also fans of yours too.

  5. Audrey

    Maybe “arrogance” but I still think it’s “deceit.” Just me thinking about it a little. I’m interested in what others are also thinking.

    1. Max Foster

      Audrey, I believe you’ve hit onto something here. Deceit is like betrayal in many ways and clearly betrayal is the worst of the “sins” of mankind. Yep, you have nailed it. Arrogance, however, can lead to evil and Gen. Satterfield is right there. Clearly these are somehow interconnected, so let’s just say, “arrogance” is one of the top worst traits for a leader or for anybody.

    2. Dennis Mathes

      Yes, Audrey, good comment about betrayal. Those are the worst, period.


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