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So you want to be a terrible leader?

You might think it looks easy (and you would be right), but even “pretty bad” leaders can benefit from some tips and tricks to achieve their full potential. By following these simple guidelines you too can inspire total apathy and foster a depressing and unproductive work environment. 

1. Lack Empathy

You’ve heard it your whole life; compassion makes you weak. Empathy is a slippery slope to being a more effective leader. One moment you are letting a coworker take a half day because a family member has died, and six months later the whole workforce will be ‘feeling valued’ and socializing together outside of work. This cannot be tolerated. Remember that employees are cogs in the machine, there to do your bidding. Their lives are not important. Their feelings are irrelevant. If they are showing signs of discontent, it just means you’re doing it right.

2. Be Condescending

Never for a moment forget that you are the leader, and you are the leader for a reason. You haven’t ever thought to ask, but it’s a reasonable assumption that it’s because you are clearly smarter and more talented than anybody else at the company. As such, sometimes you have to explain things to your colleagues using the vocabulary of a five year old, with a sing-song tone to match. After all, they are beneath you; to get on the same level it makes sense that you would have to talk down to them. They will hate this, but you won’t mind because you will already have mastered point 1.

3. Withhold Information

Keeping your team in the loop is overrated. Instead, let information trickle out on a need-to-know basis only. This will keep employees on their toes, and will keep you in a position of strength. You need to keep your subordinates dependent on you for all instruction and information, without allowing for their growth. After all, knowledge is power, and you don’t want to be power-sharing.

4. Trust No-One

Every man is an island and in your case, the island should be fortified with thick stone walls embedded with broken glass. Connecting with your subordinates is a mistake. Protect yourself by turning into an emotionally distant robot. An obvious lack of trust in the abilities and opinions of your colleagues will quickly destroy any positive working atmosphere, leaving them fearful and uncertain.

5. Avoid Confrontation

If someone attempts to confront you on an issue, or expresses unhappiness with something that is definitely your fault…avoid them. Avoid addressing any topic that might prove difficult. Avoid directly giving any indication of your true feelings; if at all possible, be purposely opaque in your dealings, and never put anything in writing. Avoid radical candor at all cost.

6. Always Take Credit

As the saying goes, “credit where credit is due” and honestly, as a terrible leader you clearly deserve all the credit. Giving other people their day in the sun will only diminish the glow of your own success, so circumvent this by taking credit for the achievements of your subordinates. This will not be a popular move, but thanks to the mastery of point 1 you won’t care.

7. Blame Others

Deny any substantial wrongdoing. After all, how are your team going to look at you as their leader if you admit to being human and making mistakes? Instead, find ways to shift the blame onto someone lower down the totem pole; preferably someone too nice, too fearful or too timid to contradict you. Engage in as much finger-pointing as you can get away with. This will engender an atmosphere of mistrust and fear, but if anybody attempts to raise the issue, see point 5. Most will, however, already know who the next person to be unfairly targeted will be… because of point 8.

8. Play Favorites

A terrible leader has no qualms about making their favorites known. Make it excruciatingly obvious by allowing one or two people to get away with things that others would be rightfully punished for, while holding unreasonable grudges against those who have done nothing wrong. This will encourage competition between colleagues to curry favor while they desperately try to avoid becoming the most unpopular – and therefore most frequently targeted – member of the team.

9. Be Indecisive

Making decisions can be difficult, so just avoid it altogether. Easier to keep them guessing with chronic indecision than to take a real stand and risk being wrong. After all, as we just discussed, being clearly wrong means having to admit a mistake. A wishy-washy attitude will lead to a lack of trust and a great deal of workplace instability. This is really something to aim for if you truly want to be a terrible leader.

10. Never Listen

Nobody on your team will have anything meaningful to contribute, and certainly not anything that would be more useful than what you have already come up with yourself. Avoid truly listening to any suggestions, concerns, ideas or doubts. Assure your team that you know best, and that they needn’t voice their thoughts since you have everything under control. If necessary, use elements of point 2 to help bolster your position.

If you decide you would rather not take this route, and you would rather excel in your leadership role, simply turn all of this advice on its head. Click on the links provided for articles that delve into why doing the opposite will improve your leadership skills.

Being a great leader involves paying attention to your team. Learning their individual needs and tailoring your leadership methods accordingly can lead to an increase in productivity. Coaching rather than threatening can build trust and help create a stable work environment. Leadership is difficult but ultimately rewarding, and there is always more to learn; get inspired by watching these TED talks.

In the end leadership is always a work in progress, but if you can steer clear of these ten points you will be off to an excellent start.

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