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8 Dangerous Leadership Traits – These Will Wreck Your Ability to Lead

There are no perfect leaders — except for Jesus.

For the rest of us, we each have room for improvement. Most of us live with flaws in our leadership and the more we mature the more aware we become of them. Good leaders learn to surround themselves with people who can supplement their weaknesses.

There are, however, some leadership traits, which a leader can never delegate away. If the leader can’t work through them, in my opinion, their leadership will be crippled. With these traits, the best the leader has to offer will never fully materialize.

These leadership traits will eventually wreck a leader’s success.

Here are 8 dangerous leadership traits:

Immoral character

If the leader’s character is flawed, the leadership will be flawed. A leader can never escape the quality of his or her heart.

Assuming everyone’s support

Leaders seldom hear the complete story unless they pursue it. Environments have to be created that produce transparency and honesty. Even in the healthiest organizations there will always be things a leader doesn’t know.

Assuming everyone understands

In my experience, most leaders think they are communicating effectively. What’s clear to them they assume is clear to others. It’s usually not as clear as the leader thinks. Good leaders ask lots of questions to identify the level of clarity.

Continually avoiding conflict

Conflict never, ever, ever, goes away. Ever. Unresolved conflict damages the strength and integrity of organizational health. It may get ignored, overlooked, or stifled, but until conflict is dealt with it continues to stir strife in an organization.

Pretending to have all the answers

The less a leader listens to others, the less willing others will desire to help the leader succeed. Arrogant leaders never attract the best from people. Great leaders invite input, knowing that with more people involved, decisions will be stronger and more buy-in will be achieved.

Allowing friendship to derail progress

The best leaders I know value relationships and recognize friendships with others as an important part of their personal well-being. At the same time, some leaders fail to separate their friendships from their callings as leaders. They confuse loyalty as a friend from their responsibility as a leader. A leader cannot allow personal friendships to negatively alter the course to success.

Refusing to let go of control

When the leader doesn’t delegate, he or she stifles the growth of the organization. Healthy delegation involves releasing authority over a project. If a leader continually maintains the right to control, the organization will be limited to his or her abilities, rather than the strength of the team.

Living in the past

Unless you’re a teacher of history, the leader’s primary focus needs to be on the future. Leadership is about moving things forward. That requires progressive thinking, welcoming change, and refusing to let past failures determine future success.

Be honest, of which of these are you most guilty? As difficult as it may be, until you push through them and improve in that area, you’ll never experience the leadership success you desire.

What examples would you add to my list of things you can change and things you can’t?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 31 Comments

  • Megan Sostre says:

    Thank you for clearly identifying these traits. I just wanted to add “Marriage as #1 priority “. The immoral character I believe starts to address the character flaws that leads to putting ministry and others before your marriage. My husband and I once planted a church, which we laid down, due to my husband confessing his character flaws ,which he refused to admit years before. As much as this was so devastating to our marriage, it was also the most pivotal time in our lives. I learned a lot about humility, as this forced me to a place of humility I would never have taken myself. I was horrified at the inability, the majority of leaders we served with, had no idea how to walk along side us at this time. I became so angry at God and “church goers”, I honestly was tempted to leave completely. Thankfully God is so faithful. My husband’s willingness to surrender to the truth and conviction, enabled Godly sorrow, that allowed me to have hope. Our marriage was powerfully restored, though my eyes were opened. I now began to understand, that people can only give out of what they have. If they haven’t dealt with their flaws, whatever they are, or gone deep beneath “their” surface, they do not know how to take others there. It frustrates me so, God wants to go so much deeper in our marriages or singleness, if we are willing. If a leader is married, if they are not honest about martial or family struggles, they basically” use God to run from God”. As a great man of God once said, “our marriage is the loudest gospel we can peach”. # ehleader.

    We are ministry leaders again, though have spent years working on our character flaws and going deep beneath the surface. We are deeply grieved at the condition of the marriages of those we are serving with. We pray, do what we can to be available, though careful not to impose. But dear God, ministry leaders have to get that their marriage is the most important ministry and will lead others to Christ. I will stop here, I could say more, but I’ve said enough. 🙂 hope I was clear

  • Jim Watson says:

    What does this have to do with the article?

  • jimpemberton says:

    This is a pretty comprehensive list. Each item could be drawn out into a lengthy chapter and a very helpful book written. I'll only comment on a couple of items here:

    I've seen a refusal to let go of control undermine many leaders. The terms "control freak" or "micromanager" come to mind. You generate frustration and distrust by not trusting your team members to do their jobs.

    One line caught my attention: "…there will always be things a leader doesn't know." This is under 'Assuming everyone's support'. It would go well under 'Pretending to have all the answers' also. A leader doesn't need to know everything. A good leader will call for those things that are necessary to know and trust his team members to know the rest. Vision doesn't mean telling people how things are to be done. It means setting purposeful goals for the team and guiding the team to apply their expertise to accomplishing the goal. This gives the team a sense of being a team and also gives them some ownership in the goal. You don't want them just punching a clock. You want them to want the best for the team.

  • PAUL ONKPE says:

    GOD bless you sir,am a pastor,motivational speaker and my main focus is on leadership which is the major issues in our life in Nigeria and the body of Christ ie the church.your works have build me,i will love to be in your conference.

  • pastor ecalvary atamudzi says:

    you are making great impact on my life as a young leader,l read a lot of your insight.

  • Ben Jameson says:

    I'm a pastor and we used this in our staff meeting this morning. It sparked a lot of great discussion and was very helpful. The one that stood out the most to our staff was "assuming everyone understands" and "refusing to let go of control." Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way about "allowing friendship to derail progress." Just wanted to say thanks.

  • Jason Pulley says:

    Assuming Everyone Understands! I battle with this all the time and I am told this by my Wife and son. It has affected me as a leader in ensuring understanding from my brain into a picture others can see. Thanks for this post, it helps keep me aware!

  • Suzy Wilson says:

    I could not agree more! The type of mistakes you are referring to here, are also typical of individu

  • DAWillmore says:

    Jesus also loves homosexuals, abortion clinic doctors and nurses and everyone else Christians seem to love to hate. Jesus also wants them to repent and turn to Him. Jesus' Love and Jesus' Grace are not mutually inclusive.

  • kmac4him

    1st I wanted to say thank you! I am really learning and growing from these blog posts and I am grateful. 2nd is the leadership trait you need to overcome. Not stopping to celebrate and be grateful. We plan everything into our vision and our goals, except celebration. We evaluate which leans toward the negative but we don’t take time to celebrate the positive of what God did. We move too quickly to the “next big thing”! If you notice in the bible, God always bookends each season. He leads the way with worship and He bookends the season with Praise-Celebration. The lack of celebration dumbs down the development of our AWE of God as leaders, which I believe a lot of GOD-gifts flow out of AWE! We miss out when we don’t celebrate as leaders!
    The one I need to work on the most is conflict… I hate conflict… I avoid it like a plague, yet it still infects my leadership as I saw in your God wisdom today… what goes around comes around until you break the circle… Oh Lord… help me grow in this!

  • Bryankr

    To add to the list: The inability to confront. I know a Pastor, when people were falsly accused of things in the Church, When some wanted individuals out of leadership roles (teaching, council, etc) they would make such a big stink about it, he would never confront and determine what was really wrong. He always chose the path of least resistance. I never imagined the problems that could lead to!

  • A great list of what not to do! I really liked "assuming everyone understands." It reminds me of a time I tried to implement a new software program. I asked in a meeting how everyone was doing and if everyone was undestanding it well. Everyone said yes.

  • Darnell Clayton

    My biggest flaw is “Allowing friendship to derail progress” aka peer pressure.

    Pursuing God’s calling in my life instead of the various distractions by friends is an issue that the Holy Spirit is working within me.

  • Melissa says:

    One dangerous trait is leading with outside influence instead of one's heart ….Proverbs 4:23