What it is, how it happens, why it matters

Barbara Kellerman - Harvard Business Review Press - 2004 - 304 pages

Bad Leadership

2021 November 24 | by Arduino Mancini Leadership

What do Radovan Karadzic, Vladimir Putin, Rudolph Giuliani have in common?

What characteristics distinguish former Mattel CEO Jill Barad, Levi Strauss CEO Robert Haas, and many other managers and politicians profiled in this book?

Beyond the significant differences among them, according to Barbara Kellerman¬†they share what is known as “negative leadership“: these people exert power, authority, and influence in ways and means that can be detrimental to the community.

It may be useful, before going on to review the book, to make a few remarks about a rather common idea of leadership: the kind of leadership that works intentionally for the common benefit, with courage; on the concept of good leadership, the English-speaking editorial business (but also that linked to consulting and training) developed a billion-dollar business worldwide.

According to this model, the successful leader has strong moral qualities, so

the real leader is “the good leader!”

The concept of good leadership is in line with the need to support self-esteem, to encourage people’ tendency to recognize themselves in “good” values and to be consistent with them; behind positive leadership, there is a business based on the assumption that everyone can become a successful leader, nothing is excluded.

Although the term “leadership” has become synonymous with working for the common benefit, politics and economics provide us with numerous contrary examples, increasingly distant from the idea of the white knight that inhabits our imagination.

To explain the bad leadership concept, the author adopts a completely different perspective: the bad leader is not something aberrant, but simply the expression of the dark side of human nature, and as such must be fully understood.

The book ends up identifying the two fundamental categories of bad leadership: ineffective and anti-ethical.

Through numerous examples of both political and corporate leadership, Barbara Kellerman then outlines the seven models of the bad leader, with many enlightening examples (see below the index of the book):

  1. incompetent;
  2. rigid;
  3. intemperate;
  4. insensitive;
  5. corrupt;
  6. insular;
  7. evil.

Concluding that

there are no bad leaders without bad followers

Written in a captivating style, “Bad Leadership” is a book that emphasizes the responsibilities of the leader and, by enlightening its hidden face, shows everyone the way to become a better leader (and/or follower).

Want to learn more? Listen to Barbara Kellerman’s speaking about bad leadership.





Introduction – Webs of Significance

PART ONE – The Bad Side

  • Claiming the Bad Side
  • Reasons For Being Bad
  • Making Meaning of Being Bad

PART TWO – Leading Badly

  1. Incompetent
    • Juan Antonio Saramanch
    • Abdurrahman Wahid
    • Jill Barad
  2. Rigid
    • Mary Meeker
    • Robert Haas
    • Sumner Redstone
    • Vladimir Putin
  3. Intemperate
    • Marrion Barry jr
    • Gary Hart
    • Jesse Jackson
    • James Bakker
    • Henry Lyons
    • William Bennett
  4. Callous
    • Al Dunlap
    • Rudolph Giuliani
    • Leona Helmsley
    • Howell Raines
  5. Corrupt
    • William Aramony
    • Vincent Cianci Jr
    • Mario Villanueva
    • Andrew Fastow
  6. Insular
    • Bill Clinton
    • Lee Raymond
    • James W. Johnston
  7. Evil
    • Radovan Karadzic
    • Saddam Hussein
    • Poil Pot
    • Jim Jones
    • David Koresh

PART THREE – From Bad to Better

  • Costs and Benefits
    • Costs
    • Benefits
    • Unifying constraints
  • Comments and Corrections
    • Leaders
    • Followers

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