Leader Derailment—Why Are There So Many Bad/Ineffective Leaders?

Robert Hogan (2005) suggests that the majority of managers and/or leaders in our organizations today are deficient and/or incompetent. Quite an indictment of leaders and perhaps the cause of such high turn-over in executives in organizations. And keep in mind, it is not just organizational leaders, it is political leaders, too.

We don’t know how to hire good/effective leaders and this is because of biases we may have or, in many organizations, a self-serving interest rather than hiring for the greater good.

Bad leaders get their jobs because we value leadership traits such as confidence, strength, assertiveness. The problem is that we confuse arrogance and narcissism for a leadership strength and we are too willing to forgive bad behavior. Narcissism is a leadership trait but too much narcissism creates a bad leader. This leader is certain s/he is right, does not listen to other’s counsel or insights and doesn’t learn from their mistakes and thus they keep making them. Some narcissism is good, but too much creates the bad leader.

We want results but at what cost? What about collateral damage to communities, people, families? Leaders are supposed to do the right thing and they can be successful by doing the morally right thing. Effective leaders do not have in and out groups. They represent everyone equally.

We don’t hold bad leaders accountable. How many bad leaders walk away with a multi-million dollar settlement (gold parachute)? We hire a leader, assume s/he will do the right thing, but we don’t follow up. We are not active followers. The whistle blowers get canned or worse and the bad leader goes onto another “plush” job with numerous benefits. When will we stand up for higher standards from our leaders? It has to begin with the followers!


Hogan, R. & Kaiser, R. B. (2005), What we know about leadership. Review of General Psychology, 9(2169-180.

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