Differences Between Good and Bad Leaders

The primary difference between good and bad leaders is that the world, and our history, is full of effective leaders. We have history books full of exceptional people like Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington, and Emmeline Pankhurst.

You have daily interactions with people who are excellent leaders. These people may include the PTA President, your oldest sibling, your boss, or Family Readiness Group (FRG) members.

Bad leaders don’t exist.

Bad leadership doesn’t exist.

I’m certain that you probably just said, “well, what about so-and-so? He was horrible?”

You can come up with a thousand leaders from today and history to wave around as a so-called “bad leader” if you wish. The truth is that while there is a huge difference between Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler, both of these men inspired millions.

Types of Leader

To be bad at something is to be unable to reach an adequate standard. To be evil is to be morally wrong, wicked, or a cause of harm, misfortune, or destruction. (Websters New Riverside University Dictionary, 1984). If someone is accused of being a bad leader, the question asked next is: If he’s a bad leader, how is he called a leader at all?

Personality traits, vision, goals, values, mores, and political positions aside- If an individual is ineffective at leading, no one is following them. The most basic metric of leadership is its accompanying follow-ship.

There are, however, despots like Vladimir Lenin, Kim Jon Il, and my first boss. These authority figures effectively led their followers. Adolph Hitler, one of the most reviled men of history, was dedicated to his cause, inspired his people, and was an outstanding orator. He was a leader. We don’t like the fact that he was a leader, and we like to accuse him of having an evil soul. However, he was effective in getting his country and his people to do his bidding. He had charisma, and his followers worshiped him.

On the other hand, from the same time period, we have Winston Churchill. He led his people with his charisma, oratory skills, and dedication to his cause. History considers Churchill to have had a good soul even if he was considered by many to be a bit bullish. To this day, women and men of power will often quote Winston Churchill when their goal is to inspire.

Both men were effective leaders. Both men derived their source of authority from elected office. But history reviles one and respects the other.

The point here is that effective leaders do not have to be good, or bad. They only have to be able to

• Inspire and Motivate their followers to accept the leader’s vision of the future or cause
• Coach their followers or subordinates
• Build up their teams
• Remain dedicated to their purpose, cause, vision, or plan.

Leaders, Leadership Styles, and Sources of Authority

The source of power that any Leader will use will come from one of three types of authority.

• Charismatic
• Traditional
• Rational-Legal

There are essentially three different types of leaders.

• Positive with no traditional or rational-legal authority
• Evil with no traditional or rational-legal authority
• Authoritative Positive or Evil

Every leader will fit into or somewhere between these three types of leaders, and will utilize any number of 7 leadership styles:

• Democratic
• Autocratic
• Laissez-Faire
• Strategic
• Transformational
• Transactional
• Bureaucratic

In the Mix

Leadership is not dependent upon elected or earned office of authority. It is dependent upon followers and charisma. On the other hand, most positions of authority require the loyalty and cooperation of subordinates, followers, or constituency. For anyone within a position of authority to be able to do their job properly, they usually have to be an effective leader.