Bad leaders aren’t born bad. Neither do they wake up in the morning wanting to do a bad job. 

However, if left unchecked, poor leadership is a workplace contagion that can be felt throughout the whole organization. It’s likely to spread and inspire others to engage in bad practices themselves. 

And this ultimately results in low morale, lack of direction, poor performance, and mismanaged resources.

But why are there bad bosses out there?

Usually, people who fall short in leadership are the product of their environment or ignorance for how to be better. Being aware of these reasons can help us feel empathy for those above us who have done wrong or fall short of expectations. 

This doesn’t excuse the behavior, but it gives us the opportunity to think about how we can make it better in our own lives.  

  1. Having to contribute while also managing

Many bosses or managers are also individual contributors in the workplace. They don’t just manage or lead. They’re required to be in the weeds just as much as they’re expected to lead the troops and manage the chaos. And being pulled in competing directions all the time is a recipe for stress, and probably even resentment. 

  1. Not having mentorship or support

Employees flourish when they have support and mentorship from a superior to provide guidance. Managers should have the same thing but they often don’t. 

  1. Confusing ownership, management, and leadership 

We often use these terms interchangeably but they’re all different roles. An owner is in charge of the bottom line. They pay the bills and keep the business afloat. The manager is the one who creates processes, organizes chaos, and fixes problems. A leader casts vision and aligns people to buy into that vision. They empower their team to do more than they think they’re capable of doing. 

  1. Not having a model for what good leadership looks like 

Bad bosses are like bad parents. They can’t give you what they don’t have themselves. Leadership is cyclical. The successors of a company are likely to follow in the footsteps of their bosses. It’s similar to what you experienced in a home with bad parents. You either become exactly like them or become the exact opposite and you try to break that pattern. 

  1. Being stuck in a cyclical carousel of frustration

This is a cycle of frustration, control, and react that breeds bad behavior. When a business leader doesn’t feel like they can rely on or trust their team or the work isn’t being done the way they expected, they get frustrated. This pushes them to take back control over work they originally delegated to ensure it’s done correctly or done to their standards. Because they now have a full plate, they end up reacting. They lash out and they become angry or they become quiet and passive-aggressive with their team. And this becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. 

If you want to learn more about how you can transform bad behavior into something good in your leadership, check out the Diary of a Doer Podcast on