20 Habits of Untrustworthy Leaders
It takes more than good character to be a trustworthy leader. Don’t trust leaders who can’t get the job done, even if they are wonderful people.
An incompetent leader – who tells the truth – is an untrustworthy leader.
7 sources of untrustworthy leadership:
- Selfish intent.
- Lack of character.
- Don’t trust themselves. They change their mind when they should stay the course.
- Minimize difficulties.
- Don’t know when to quit or change course. They lead into dead ends and failure.
- Run around with their finger in the air, seeing which way the wind blows. There’s a difference between listening to follow and listening to lead.
- Dangle carrots. They promise promotions but don’t deliver, for example.
- Lack compassion.
- Are ungrateful and bitter.
- Never apologize.
- Lack emotional control.
- Don’t trust others.
- Keep you guessing about what they really want.
- Lack transparency and candor. Don’t trust leaders who won’t tell you what they think.
- Get lost in the weeds and lose sight of long-term goals and purpose.
- Disconnect. Don’t trust isolated leaders who keep others at arms-length.
- Bury their head in the sand. Don’t trust leaders who won’t confront brutal facts.
- Reject feedback.
- Defend rather than explore.
- Hold others accountable but let themselves off the hook.
- Don’t stand up for others.
- Act like they didn’t screw up when they did.
5 ways to deal with untrustworthy leaders:
- Establish if they are a know-it-all. There’s no hope for someone who thinks they know when they don’t.
- Determine if the issue is character or competence. Remove leaders who lack character.
- Maximize their strengths.
- Compensate for their weaknesses.
- On a personal level, continue doing a great job, but protect yourself.
You might be a good person, but, are you a trustworthy leader?
How do you spot untrustworthy leaders?
How do you deal with untrustworthy leaders?
Thanks to my friends on Facebook who got my juices flowing on this topic.
Simple, Untrustworthy folks ARE NOT LEADERS!
They are Idiots with Titles.
Just do not listen to them.
Look at the word, LEADER.
People with Titles NO ONE IS FOLLOWING are not Leaders.
Stick to the definition and all will be clear.
Thanks Scott. The dangers ones are incompetent people who have followers.
…and the tyrants (ex. Sadam Hussein) who people follow out of fear or desire to profit by riding on the coattails of power.
Dan regret this cause I know some folks are big gonna like it.
If people follow a person not worth following is in them.
Following us a choice.
Lol. Not going to like it..
We all choose to follow or not
It is about the managers and bosses.Someone with this characteristics is not a leader.The question is: how did they become managers?It is a lack of recruiting ?
Well said Marc. I appreciate your assessment on trust and agree that one of the key factors solidifying trust is time. Time will only tell whether or not a person is trustworthy. Anybody can ensure that promises are kept and lies are not told in the short-term. It takes time for people to get to know each other and assess whether either of the two are trustworthy people. Thanks again.
Thank you for your list, Dan. It has a lot to think about.
Trust is built by a series of conversations that turn out to be true, by a series of actions that are not self-centered, and by a series of promises that are kept.
Trust is based on confidence, benevolence, and fairness.
Trust is enhanced by touch and oxytocin, but neither is the source of trust. In fact, being touched affectionately by an untrustworthy person is repulsive.
Trust reduces transactional costs in business, reduces time and resources spent to verify that people will keep their word. Ronald Reagan’s famous “trust, but verify”, although appropriate to the first stages of rapprochement between enemies who didn’t trust each other at all, is not sufficient for long-term trust.
Trust is born of true love, as stated in 1 Corinthians 13. Love “believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
To trust someone means to voluntarily let down one’s guard, and be vulnerable. That is why trust is so easily destroyed by lies, exaggeration, and empty promises, by unfairness, and by self-centered actions.
Thanks Marc. I find your insights on trust breath taking. If we just take what you have added to heart, we’ll be trust-building leaders.
A leader without trust isn’t a leader for long.
Your right about trust … you have to let your guard down. One must always keep one eye open when trusting someone. Blind trust is a recipe for disappointment. Wise trust is a liberating experience where great things can be accomplished!
I would argue that in a loving relationship, there is no need to verify trust. The problem is that many relationships don’t involve love. This is not just husband/wife love, but can extend through and entire organization. The leader needs to model trust, extend trust, ask for forgiveness when he/she disappoints, and insist on trustworthy behavior from others.
What a marvellous insight into trust. Like Dan, I was breath taken at such a clear, concise, and elegant description and explanation. Thank you!
Untrustworthy leaders have selfish intention and discriminatory behavior. These two qualities give birth to many other activities like ego, ignorance, immaturity and hidden motives etc. The main driving force behind trustworthiness is their incompetence, an unwillingness to accept that.Their moral values are weak and hence develop a kind of inferiority complex. When they develop such complex they become defensive and hence they use all possible means to protect and achieve their hidden motive. The means come as their weapon to materialize what they want to achieve.
It may not be easy to spot untrustworthy leaders. We can spot them with having some experience for quite some time. It is the event and time that help to spot untrustworthy characters. But there are some symptoms that may be useful to spot them. They show more curiosity to know about others, know others sweet spots, show more intimacy within short time. They try to create friendship fast. They do so, because by this way, they can gather information to use for their benefits/
To deal with such people, it is important to communicate message to all with some ground realities, expose them publicly and hint them strong signal. These people need strong opposition in any form. Alternatively, isolating them may be the best remedy.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. As is often the case, something in your comment grabs my attention. Untrustworthy leaders are unwilling to acknowledge weaknesses. I suppose their unwillingness might be based on the false belief that they have abilities that they don’t really have. Or, perhaps it’s fear that makes them unwilling to get real…
I’m in an interesting situation where the BIG boss is an untrustworthy leader. He promises promotions and raises but doesn’t deliver. He’s shady and no one is ever sure if what comes out of his mouth is truth. I am a leader in his organization. Though it’s tough to make any sort of headway in his shadow.
Thanks for your transparency. Leaders have the ability to enhance performance or, as in your case, they can make things harder.
My last leader/ boss fits this description so very well!
Thanks Rajiv. I bet you’re glad to say “last boss.”
I don’t say this in jest. Maybe you should send this blog entry to Washington D.C. Many of our country’s leaders came to mind while reading this.
Thanks Dale. It only helps when we know that we don’t know everything.
I admit in the past during a network marketing venture, I have run into some bad people meaning that they know it all and seem to know all the answers and neglect any suggestions from others around them.
although that may seem like a rough road to go through, something good came out of it and that was showing exactly “what not to do” if you are to become a leader. Especially in Network Marketing, because it was designed to help people and build relationships.
Thanks andrew… Congratulations and I’m glad you brought a positive word. Cheers
Not a problem Dan Rockwell, we all mess up sometimes especially when we are in the learning stages of leadership, but hey we can always become better for the next set of people in our lives. 🙂
anything I can do to help you on your posts as well I’m open. Just let me know cheers
Excellent post Dan! I’ve seen quite of bit of #4 in my career (i.e. feeling strongly in all directions) and it’s always a big red flag.
Thanks Sam. Untrustworthy leaders listen so they can determine the political expedient path. Trustworthy leaders listen to identify the path that is best for the organization.
My favorite boss had strong beliefs in the best way forward for various operational aspects of the organization and willing fought unpopular battles – usually alone – and most often suceeded. He’s still here in a very high position. Forner bosses that worried about preserving political capital ane not.
This is SO true! And articulated so well! Thank you for sharing as it helps framing the situation I currently deal with. It’s been hard to explain things, but now it is clear!
Great list Dan.
I have found the internet to be FILLED with people who claim to be leaders and even EXPERTS in leadership, who get by simply by writing or speaking about leadership, and not having to actually demonstrate it. (NOT singling you out Dan since you ‘specialize’ in the topic of leadership here! : )
I have had ‘leaders’ communicate with me and and after a couple of times, say things like, ‘Don’t you trust me?’ And I have felt put on the spot because it’s such an odd question coming from a perfect stranger who I BARELY have communicated with. I told the person that I didn’t know if I could trust her or not. I barely knew her!
It felt like a red flag to me at the time yet not a big enough one to make me go screaming for the hills. In time however, that red flag was an important one. The person turned out to be many things…trustworthy is not one of them.
I’ve had other experiences on the internet of people claiming to be leaders and focus on it as a business and very few even know how to have a direct one on one conversation when there is an issue! How can ANYONE lead if they can’t have an actual conversation when it counts?
Yet turn around and INSTRUCT other people on how to be an effective leader!
I don’t understand it.
#6 Lacking compassion is a big one. (lack of empathy) It’s either lacking completely or the leader expects the compassion and empathy and doesn’t know how to give it except in a superficial manner in order to ‘get’ something in return. Basically like a tactic to intentionally ‘lead in’ to asking for what they REALLY want… ‘How’s your daughter? Oh… will you buy my book?’
#11 Keep you guessing about what they really want. I ran into this in a big way in the past year.
And then a combo from several others down the list and what I already touched in earlier paragraphs. People who don’t know how to DEAL with things. Can’t TALK about issues/problems to make things better. It’s literally BURY HEAD IN SAND, shut OFF all communication, AVOID discussing it, and move on AS IF there is nothing wrong! Meanwhile, there’s a big gaping hole left behind, unresolved festering wound left open and hemorrhaging, and people left behind scratching their heads basically saying WTF!? What just happened? How did ‘x’ turn into a horribly ‘y’? How did the MOLEHILL issue turn into this great big huge giant volcanic mountain of too great of proportions that didn’t need to happen AT ALL?
Well…that’s what happens when people don’t communicate thru things.
Thanks for sharing Dan.
Thanks Samantha. Love how you responded and adapted some of these ideas.
The idea that untrustworthy leaders push too quickly for relationship is fascinating. Glad you added it.
Thanks Dan. Of course, I make plenty of faux-pas myself.
My comment above is a compilation of a few people and not just one. Important distinction. And in one of my examples, the one that was pushing me to trust and USING that terminology right off the bat, doesn’t necessarily mean the person is or was a ‘horrible’ monster of a person! That’s just it. It was the LACK of clarity in this person not ever getting around to WHAT she was actually seeking from me, but obviously seeking SOMETHING. Why else would they be concerned about me trusting them right off the bat? It was the pushing to get me to trust them like they needed it more then I did and not being able to clearly articulate what they wanted from me, was what prevented me from really being able to fully let my guard down.
Had this been more of an eager/excitement ‘faux pas’ (one in which I’ve made myself a time or two in my life! grins), I could have easily managed that…AND understood it! Yet the reluctance to be open and easily communicate with honesty didn’t cultivate enough trust in the soil for much to grow.
In the other cases, classic cases of AVOIDANCE. No two ways about it. And it IS sad and unnecessary. No one needs to be perfect here. But if you want to build trust with people, we need to learn to get a little more comfortable with honesty and a great deal more comfortable with communicating through the issues so they don’t turn INTO huge problems people want to avoid.
Whatever happened to Matthew 18? Talking out issues until they are resolved? Why is that not valued anymore?
PS: I bring up Matthew 18 in this context because the people who ‘avoided’ are people who profess to be ‘believers’. So that’s also why I’ve been so shocked by these avoidance behaviors. I don’t expect perfection here, but hey, if people are going to profess to be believers and quote scripture, it would be nice if they actually start practicing some of it. : (
It is interesting as I reflect on the list and how those words cross different professions. Even though I know I cannot fix, change, or point out this list to people I associate with, I sometimes wonder what it was in their upbringing, etc. that makes these type of bosses/managers lack human relations tact. Thank you for the reminder.
Thanks Kenny. I have a glimmer of hope about untrustworthy bosses. Some are untrustworthy because of ignorance and inexperience. But, lack of self-awareness is like a dead weight holding people back.
Great points! I think the selfish leaders and those who just “follow” and don’t give guidance and just expect you to just take orders are not not true leaders
Thanks ginagaudet. The struggle with selfishness takes experience and confidence to face. Even after all these years, I still feel the tug of self-protection. Cheers
It is a tough job. Look at that list! As I reviewed it, I raised my hands several times and proclaimed “guilty as charged.” When I was a manager, I was expected to keep secrets all the time. This brought out several of the behaviors on the list.
When you are a leader, you can’t have a bad day. I measure my mood every morning, and if it’s bad, I call in sick, rather than face a day where I might alienate someone with a grumpy face. When bullies attack, I feel compelled to defend myself. I tend to be sarcastic and cynical. I work on this every day. I see the list as a series of ideals to aspire towards, but not something I can manage on top of all my job responsibilities and numerous interactions with bad leaders!
Thanks Dunk. Hats off to you! I see myself on the list too. My hope is that at least I see myself there. Best for the journey.
Are you talking about a leader or just a boss? I really don’t understand how on hell can someone with so many. “qualities” can be possibly be named leader!
Thanks Sergio. As is the case for all the lists I offer, no one fits all of them. It’s hard to imagine that one person could have them all. Best
One thing, I learned from them: do not compensate for their weakness too long, leave them as soon as possible.
Thanks Aylin. The hope that things will get better may encourage people to hang on too long… cheers
Great list, Dan! Numbers 11 and 16 are especially telling. If someone wants to be insulated by a cadre of yes-men, you know they’re not going anywhere fast…anywhere good, that is.
Thanks Citizen. It’s surprising how many people on the team say “yes” because they are afraid or expected to say yes.
Untrustworthy (so called) leaders consider the inducement of fear and anxiety as an accomplishment instead of a failure.
Thanks josegan. Fear is a powerful force that weak, egotistical leaders love to use.
#10 – Trust is a two way street. If the leader doesn’t trust her co-workers, the path ends in the same place as workers who don’t trust their leader. Leaders display lack of trust in others by assigning tasks, then jumping in to “help”. They undermine trust by not accepting equivalent alternative solutions (do it my way). A leader should also back up a co-worker rather than throw them under the bus. There’s a great scene in “Saving Private Ryan” where Tom Hanks (as the leader) says to his men, “I gripe up, not down” Trust is built by accepting responsibility for the outcomes of the organization you lead, and fighting for the resources your co-workers need to accomplish the tasks you’ve assigned.
Thanks Jon. You packed loads into your comment. I don’t recall the Saving Private Ryan quote but it’s great. Love it.
Thank you for the article. I would like to make one PERSONAL comment. I would have rather read the article from a different light. Maybe 20 Habits of Trustworthy Leaders vice 20 Habits of Untrustworthy Leaders. The reason I say this is that at our company we have so many Grumpy Gus employees that when they see an article the say things like, “Wow, there’s Bob! He does that all the time!” It’s like we take great pride in focusing on the negative behaviors.
I would like to see a little more focus on the GOOD things leaders are doing. I want to tell employees the behaviors I want them to emulate rather than those I don’t want them to do. As an example, when my sons were young I didn’t say to them, “Don’t jump on the couch!” Because what do you think they would hear? “Jump on the couch!” Instead, I told them that I would like them to sit on the couch properly. Guess what they did? He sat properly.
I am trying to help my company learn how to build trust. I want to tell Managers, and employees alike, how to build trust. I want to focus on good things they can do.
Thank you for sharing with us!
I was always told that a good leader trained their assistant to perform as a better manager than yourself, your team leaders to be stronger than your assistant, and your sales associates should be prepared to be leaders. It takes putting your insecurities aside and becoming a true leader.