Bad Leadership; the abuse of power

Bad Leadership

Bad leadership and the abuse of power! A leader can use his or her power to help others. But, of course the leader can also gain personally.  In bad leadership, the obvious problem is that when self-interest rules, the leader gains but often at the followers’ expense.

Bad leadership, the deluded leader!

The dangerous thing is that leaders can begin to delude themselves about bad leadership.  They start to believe that the rules that govern what is right and what is wrong, do not apply to them. They no longer have the best interests of their followers at heart.

Leaders can become “intoxicated” by power. They begin to do something unethical or take an unreasonable risk – just because they can!  In bad leadership, they can become addicted to the adrenaline rush. Followers may begin to collude – it is OK; “He’s the boss!”

I’ve seen this kind of thing happen several times in large organizations and not always at top-level.

Sometimes it is someone in an unchallenged leadership position in a particular division.  They are getting results so those further up the line choose not to ask questions.  Sometimes, it is someone with particular intellectual capital (the subject matter expert). Or a scarce talent! Again it can be easier for “management” to look the other way.

Abuse of power can hapen anywhere

It does not happen just in large organisations.  Abuse of power can happen anywhere! Eventually, the organisation suffers either in terms of legal challenge or financial loss from poor decision-making.  The reputational loss can be considerable!

It happens less in organisations with resilient governance arrangements. Or in those bodies whose top leaders set an example of ethical and compassionate leadership.

But I fear that the present economic circumstances, a climate may be created in which the abuse of power is more not less likely to take place.

On the positive side, of course, power makes leaders more assertive and confident.  They feel more certain of their decisions. This enables them to move forward towards their vision.

At the end of the day leaders and manager must be given the power to “get the job done.” But I’d welcome your views on how best to keep this to a healthy balance!

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at


Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link


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  1. Pingback: Confidence and the Passionate Leader | Wisewolf Talking – Leadership and Change

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