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An Open “Thank You” Letter to All The Bad Leaders Out There


I’m not a hater. Not a cynic. Nor a negative person.

What I am is a huge believer in the paradox of value. The paradox of value (also known as the diamond–water paradox) is the apparent contradiction that, although water is on the whole more useful than diamonds with respect to human survival, diamonds command a higher price in the market.

The philosopher Adam Smith correctly stated that “The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.”

Great leadership can be difficult to find — leaders that demand the highest standard, are empathetic to an honest effort, and have mechanisms in place that create a culture of ownership taking and decision making.

Bad leaders – well, those are a dime a dozen. They are like water, found everywhere. For they are emotionally bent, communicationally challenged, and have no idea what’s going on around them. 

Bad leaders are emotionally bent

Bad leaders love the panic button. It’s their primary move for everyday management and are spectacular at freaking out at the first sign of adversity. The panic comes in many forms – it may be incessant blaming of others, a fireworks display of yelling, or brash threats of dismals and firings.

For two years in a row, the annual stress survey commissioned by the American Psychological Association has found that about 25% of Americans are experiencing high levels of stress while another 50% report moderate levels of stress.

Stress is natural and does not discriminate. We all feel it and all must work under it. The difference, however, is that we expect our leaders to manage it and help shield us from it.

A stressful situation — whether something environmental, such as a upcoming work deadline, or psychological, such as constant worry about losing a job — can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that produce coordinated physiological changes.

The stress response begins in the brain. When someone confronts an oncoming stressor, the eyes and/or ears pass the information to the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing. The amygdala interprets the images and audio. If it perceives danger, it instantly sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus, which functions like a command center, communicating with the rest of the body through the nervous system so that the person has the energy to fight or flee.

The stressors of the past (pack of wolves chasing us) have been replaced with stressors of the now (huge deadline in the office), but the response stays the same. Great leaders handle the added stress of leadership and have mechanisms to combat the natural feeling we all get when a stressor is inbound.

Bad leaders are communicationally challenged

Communication lines seem to be the key to many areas of a successful life and leadership style. The reason being is because life and leadership are so deeply involved in relationship building that they often go hand-in-hand.

Here’s what bad leaders do: They fail to speak up. They thrive in a land of ambiguity and have zero confidence or fortitude to tell you when something needs to be changed.

Congratulating someone or thanking someone is easy. It has little to no chance of becoming uncomfortable. On the other hand, when someone needs to hear that they are not performing up to a certain standard or may just need a course correction, bad leaders fail to articulate it. Instead, because of the fear of discomfort or personal backlash, they let the issue sit, persist, and possibly worsen.

Constructive criticism is still criticism and can be difficult for humans to hear and accept. That said, these crucial conversations are imperative for leaders aspiring to build the strongest team possible. Rather than letting it sit, great leaders will speak up when they first see something that does not look right. They take the edge off a crucial conversation by speaking persuasively, not abrasively.

Great leaders take time to listen to your rebuttal and understand that their directives may not have been clear enough for you to understand. Bad leaders just assume you’re jacked up and rationalize that there is no fixing you.

Bad Leaders are comfortably oblivious  

Nine percent – Gallup’s Leadership Research shows when an organization’s leadership fails to focus on individuals’ strengths, the odds of an employee being engaged are a dismal 1 in 11. The real travesty here is that it happens far too often.

It’s easy to become disconnected as a leader. To focus on high level items rather than the personal development of the team is the calling card of many executives. Together, it’s when they become too disconnected do we start to realize they have no clue what’s going on around them.

And it’s very easy to notice. The sheer lack of presence in the workplace shows us that they may not be engaged. They don’t ask questions or even appear curious about the projects we’re working on. And forget brainstorming alongside you about your projects. They will simply default to you with the classic, “I trust you!” or a variation of that because of their lack of engagement.

And when only 28% of GenY in the workforce believe their organization is fully taking advantage of their skills (Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trend), it’s easy to see why: Our leaders are failing us.


For all of you bad leaders out there – we thank you. Thank you for setting the example we aspire not to be. The illustration of management that creates chaos and causes people to run for their life. May we never subscribe to your ways of “leading” those around us. For we have chosen to shine like a diamond.



About the author, Tim

US Navy Surface Warfare Officer.
Lacrosse Player.

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