5 Telltale Signs of a Weak Leader



Most people associate a weak leader with being docile, deferential, timid or meek. While that may have some merit, weak leaders can also be bombastic, egocentric, domineering, dictatorial and imperious. Even if you are successful, at adding to the bottom line, bringing in new clients or developing new products and services, if people aren’t seeking you out or clamoring to be on your team, you are a weak leader.

Here are a few key behaviors that beset a weak leader:

1. Your team routinely suffers from burnout

Being driven and ambitious are important traits for successful leaders. However, if you are excessively working your people or churning through staff than you aren’t effectively using your resources. You may take pride in your productivity, in doing more with less. However, today’s success may undermine long-term health. Crisis management can become a way of life that reduces morale and drives away or diminishes the effectiveness of dedicated people. With any business, there are times when you have to burn the midnight oil but it should be accompanied with time for your team to recharge and refuel.

2. You avoid making the tough call

A decision needs to be made and you’re dancing around the situation. This can stem from the need to be 100% certain or not having confidence in your abilities. So you keep sending people off to find more facts in order to get as close to 100% as possible. Routinely you wait until the last possible moment so if the decision turns out to be off the mark you can say that “we” ran out of time or “we” didn’t have all the information. In the meantime, you hold up the process and have people spinning their wheels searching for certainty (that more often than not doesn’t exist) while other work isn’t getting done.

3. You don’t provide adequate direction

You’re in a rush to get a project or assignment underway but you haven’t thought through what you want. You gather your team together for a quick kick-off meeting and start thinking out loud. Your meandering unfocused thought process leads to divergent tangents that are contradictory and leave people confused. At the end of the meeting, you still haven’t clearly communicated concrete objectives and expectations. There are numerous unanswered questions with the course of action undefined and left open to interpretation. Ultimately, you’re leaving it up to the team to figure out while taking the “I’ll know it when I see it approach”. As the team leaves the meeting they quietly whisper, “Here we go again”. Knowing the assignment will be a chaotic mess.

4. You belittle your team members in a public setting

Dressing down someone on your team in a meeting or public setting is a fast track to a bad reputation as a leader. You may think that what someone did or said was stupid, however making a point of it in a meeting only demonstrates that you are unstable and a loose cannon. Weak leaders will habitually, demean others as a way of making themselves look or feel better. Even if someone is deserving of constructive criticism it should be done in private. Creating a spectacle in a meeting in which you make everyone uncomfortable doesn’t put you in power position. Quite the contrary, good people will not tolerate such actions and you’ll be left with a feeble team that will deliver mediocre results because they are afraid of you.

5. You don’t provide honest feedback

In order not to hurt someone’s feelings or to keep them happy you don’t provide truthful actionable feedback. This can be about their performance, likelihood of being promoted or whether you see them as a long-term player on your team or with the company. By skirting the issue you create unrealistic expectations for the person on your team and confusion when implied promises are not being met. Left unchecked, people will place little credence in what you say assuming everything that comes out of your mouth is a half-truth. Being able to provide tough yet fair feedback is a hallmark on a strong leader. In the long run, people will appreciate your candor.


Being a strong leader takes an incredible amount of self-awareness and self-management that shines a light on the success off the team.