Can Bad Leaders Teach Good Leadership?

By |Published On: August 5, 2013|
low angle shot of three women wearing blazer

An interesting question I’ve often considered is ‘Can we learn positive leadership skills or traits from bad leaders?’ Well, I recently read an article on this very topic from one of my favorite business dailies – SmartBrief.

Bad leadership traits

photo of laptop and tablet on the table

Author, James daSilva thinks, like I do, that we can learn both good and bad leadership skills and traits from bad leaders.  In fact, daSilva offers four questions one should ask when considering the advice offered by leaders:

1.  Does this person give good advice.  (Regardless of whether or not they follow their own advice)

2.  Is this person a good person, either in reputation or in how I regard him?

3.  Do I agree with this person or have a vested interest in defending this person?

4.  Do I have a vested interest in tearing this person down or an opposition to this person’s ideals or goals?

These seem like good suggestions to consider.  Thankfully, daSilva goes on to suggest that merely considering these questions alone isn’t enough.  We may have a vested interest in opposing someone’s ideals or goals but they may still have valid information or knowledge to share that we should consider.

My mind immediately ran to bosses I’ve had who may not have been the nicest people and famous (or infamous) people throughout history who we wouldn’t walk across the street to help but who may have had leadership knowledge worth considering like Attila the hun or Napolean.

Since leadership is about motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal, we can learn about the art of leadership from both bad and good leaders.  The kind of leader we are and the leader behavior we choose to implement is based on what we’ve learned; and more importantly, what traits and skills we develop over time and choose to share with our teams – because they are the future leaders.

If you are or you want to be a leader, you should take into consideration that we are lifelong students.  Working with a bad leader can be difficult, but it can also provide you with the perfect opportunity to sharpen your managerial skills. Their mistakes can give you the experience you need to become a successful leader in your own right. Always keep in mind the type of impact effective leadership can have.

The keys to succeeding as an underdog

man and woman talking to each other while working in the office

Speaking about leadership.. is that something that you feel you can be good at but you feel like an underdog in your company?

A friend of mine recently shared an article from the New Yorker with me.  The article is titled, “How David Beats Goliath” and is a pre-cursor to Malcolm Gladwell’s next book.  You guessed it – the book is about how underdog’s can succeed.

The article was very interesting to me – partially because the examples used to prove his point were sports or history related.  I love both.

Bottom line – if you are the underdog and compete with “Goliath” on his terms, you will lose at least two-thirds of the time.  Not a great winning percentage, but better than Mario Mendoza‘s batting average.

On the other hand, if you are the underdog and you find new, creative and innovative ways to compete, you can win much more often.  Think about all the times you do things because that’s the way they’re always done.  When you do, you don’t often “win”.  But when you re-think things; try to find a new and better way to do them – you are more successful.

Remember, we have countless examples of the underdog narrative succeeding in the real world. Use that energy to out-perform your perceived rivals. This is a great way to drive motivation towards success.

Lastly, I look forward to reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book in 2013.  I’m sure we’ll make more observations about competing as the underdog then.  Until then, share some experiences you have had winning while competing as the underdog.

If you’d like to read more about leadership, team value and much more, be sure to check our blog posts.



  1. Kenneth December 20, 2015 at 3:09 am - Reply

    Thank you for a nice article from a ptrvpeceise I’m very familiar with. Other ways of volunteering I like doing are: helping at conferences, translating texts and videos, making summaries/manuals/presentations, moving furniture at events, keeping a weather eye open when needed, supervising or coordinating, et cetera.

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