Most terrible bosses have several common traits:

  • They rarely or never recognize you for doing good work
  • They disrespect their reports
  • They lack integrity and honesty
  • They can't communicate effectively
  • They don't give you timely and continuous feedback, never

You don't want to be a terrible leader, and you certainly don't want to work for one.

Here are quotes about bad leadership from the world's greatest leaders and thinkers. They capture the essence of what separates the great from mediocre leaders, what it takes to be a leader rather than a manager.

There's hardly a better way to learn than to hear from the greats, such as Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, Benjamin Franklin, Grace Hopper.

On working with others

"No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it."
- Andrew Carnegie

"Leadership is about vision and responsibility, not power."
- Seth Berkeley

"You manage things; you lead people."
- Grace Hopper

On character and integrity

Great people have both great character and great capabilities.
- Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
- Abraham Lincoln

"Glass, china, and reputation, are easily crack'd, and never well mended."
- Benjamin Franklin

"The bad leader is he who the people despise; the good leader is he who the people praise; the great leader is he who the people say, "We did it ourselves"
- Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization

"To be effective you must not let your need to be right be more important than your need to find out what’s true. If you are too proud of what you know or of how good you are at something you will learn less, make inferior decisions, and fall short of your potential."
- Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work

"Great leaders are willing to sacrifice the numbers to save the people. Poor leaders sacrifice the people to save the numbers."
- Simon Sinek

On hiring and letting others to the work

“A good leader is someone who knows what he's bad at, and hires someone who's good at it to take care of it for him.”
- John Flanagan, The Battle for Skandia

"Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results."
- George Patton

"It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."
- Steve Jobs

"A leader's job is not to do the work for others, it's to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible."
- Simon Sinek

On learning and humility

"If you aren’t willing to be mocked, you’ll never be able to lead."
Naval Ravikant

"If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants."
- Isaac Newton

Don't get hung up on your views of how things "should" be because you will miss out on learnings how they really are.
- Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work

“The leader’s Attitude is like a thermostat for the place she works. If her attitude is good, the atmosphere is pleasant, and the environment is easy to work in. But if her attitude is bad, the temperature is insufferable.”
- John C. Maxwell, The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization

On communication

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
- Martin Luther King

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.."
- George Bernard Shaw

"Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity."
- Reed Markham

"People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything."
- Thomas Sowell