When I think of leadership, I usually think about it from the aspect of, "Who would I consider to be great leaders and why?". Some of the names that come to mind immediately are, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. They were all great men that had a hand in changing history. I believe there are many leadership lessons to be learned from their examples. Having said that, I also believe looking at the reverse is also beneficial.
Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. There are leaders we would consider to be good, like Abraham Lincoln. Through his leadership the United States stayed united. Others we would consider bad, like Adolf Hitler. He used his leadership skills to promote the genocide of the Jewish people. Both of these leaders had excellent leadership abilities, but what about leaders with poor or bad leadership skills. What can we learn from them? Types of Bad Leadership
What are "bad leadership" skills? In 2004, Barbara Kellerman wrote a book entitled, "Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters". In her book, Barbara suggests bad leadership can be categorized into 7 types. The 7 types are: Incompetent, Rigid, Intemperate, Callous, Corrupt, Insular and Evil (Kellerman, 2008). In regard to these 7 types, I would like to explore many of them using the example of the aristocrat, James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan.
James Brudenell was an English officer best known for leading the charge of the light brigade against Russia during the Crimean War in 1854. He was the perfect specimen of what a leader should look like. He was tall and good looking with golden hair and blue eyes. He was also an excellent swordsman and had great courage. Given these qualities it would appear that James was destined to be a great leader. This was not the case.
One of the bad leadership types mentioned by Kellerman is the lack of self-control or being intemperate. I believe James Brudenell fit this description. He was an only son with 7 sisters. Growing up with no brothers to challenge him, he was the strongest in the family. Because he was the only son, he was treated as the most important and influential person in his world (Woodham-Smith, 1953, pg. 6). He was considered by outsiders to be an "egocentric, pampered spoiled brat" (Wallechinsky & Wallace). James always got what he wanted when he wanted it. This character flaw followed him his whole life.
In 1824, at the age of 27, James joined the military. Because of Britain's Purchase System, James moved rapidly up the ranks by purchasing his promotions. At age 28, he became a Lieutenant, at age 29, a captain. Then in 1830, he was promoted twice, first to Major and then to Lieutenant-Colonel (Woodham-Smith, 1953, pg. 44). This abuse of the purchase system showed his lack of self-control, wanting a command of his own as quickly as possible.
Another bad leadership trait is corruption (Kellerman, 2008). Is the leader in question, corrupt? That is, putting self-interest ahead of all else. James demonstrated this trait through out his military career. James' hatred of commoners was legendary. He viewed and treated them like animals. It was his desire to have a regiment comprised solely of aristocrats. All others had to be forced out. In one case James brought trumped up charges against one of his commoner officers for the purpose of obtaining a court-martialed. During the trial, James was asked for his testimony. During the cross-examination of his facts it was determined that the charges were false and the officer was acquitted. A second outcome of the trial was that Lieutenant-Colonel James Brudenell was forced to resign his commission (Wallechinsky & Wallace). In 1836, 2 years after his resignation, James was able to leverage his connections and bought his way back into the military. A 3rd trait of a bad leader is callousness. A leader that is callous displays an uncaring and mean spirited attitude toward subordinates as well...
References: Kellerman, B. (2008, April 15). Toxic Leader. Retrieved March 31, 2009, from www.wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxic_leader
Northouse, P. G. (2007). Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.
Wallechinsky, D., & Wallace, I. (n.d.). Court-Martial of English Soldier James Thomas Brudenell. Retrieved March 31, 2009, from www.trivia-library.com: http://www.trivia-library.com/a/court-martial-of-english-soldier-james-thomas-brudenell.htm
Woodham-Smith, C. (1953). The Reason Why. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.
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