5 Sayings From Bad Leaders


Over the course of my career I have noticed certain phrases from those in leadership that made people cringe. I often mulled those sayings over, at times consciously but many times unconsciously. And when another phrase was uttered and got an indifferent response, that would stick in my memory as well.

As the years went by I have noticed the thinking and behaviors which have given these saying their foothold. What follows are phrases that poor leaders use and the rationale behind the words.

“You make me look bad”. This simple statement couldn’t get any more clearer – the leader who utters this is upset because their reputation took a hit. Whether is was holding them accountable, or that truth came to light, or a statement was made that contradicted them, they reveal their pride and that they want preeminence in the company.

“That’s not acceptable”. When used positively, it can create extra effort and minimize the excuse for falling short. But when used in a negative context, it becomes a bully’s rallying cry. Leaders who leverage this phrase want a particular outcome, and don’t care what it takes. They may want their people to bend rules, bully themselves, sometimes even lie, to get their desired result. The pressure they foist on others may even lead their people to compromise on their beliefs in order to stay employed.

“Who told you to do that?”. There are usually two translations for this phrase. One is “who undermined my authority?” and the other is “Do what I tell you, and don’t think on your own.” Both translations show a leader who gives no autonomy, develops no one, and wants utmost control.

“That’s not an option”. Similar to “that’s not acceptable”, this phrase steers people to go down the only path the leader wants them to. Many times it’s a course of action that doesn’t disrupt the leader themselves, or require them to lend a hand. It’s a more passive-aggressive approach, and subtly lets everyone know “never to bother the boss”.

“You don’t know how (this industry, this business works)”.  This excuses covers a wide range of behaviors. It’s used as an excuse unprofessional conduct in certain industries, cover for improprieties by one or a few individuals, and it also gives a frontal resistance to change to a better, modern (and possibly more transparent) way of doing business.

Overall these sayings do the same thing – they create an “us vs. them” culture in the organization. The ensuing disengagement, low morale, and lack of trust becomes a toxin. Unless the leadership responsible changes their behavior, disastrous result will be the norm and will hinder the company from fully realizing sustained success.

Keep an ear out for these and other bad leadership phrases. Create a better culture with leadership that encourages, empowers, and equips people to develop and succeed.


(image: morguefile/Scarletina)

About Paul LaRue

My goal - To encourage you to lead & influence others with positive impact.

Posted on April.20.2015, in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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