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Bad leaders: how they get that way and what to do about them

Robert J. Allio (Principal of Allio Associates, located in Providence, RI ( A veteran corporate planner and strategist and a founding editor of Strategy & Leadership, his most recent book is Practical Strategy for Family Business, co‐authored with Michael K. Allio (Tata McGraw‐Hill, 2005).)

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 15 May 2007




The author argues that the causes of this current epidemic of bad leadership include the leaders' personality disorders, akrasia (weakness of will), flawed values, and avoidance of reality. The complicity of followers also contributes.


The author offers a twin‐scenario model. In one case stressed leaders become pragmatists. In the other they act out this alternative: The would‐be visionary, seduced by power and a growing sense of certitude, first becomes isolated and then gets lost. When plans fail to deliver wins, the leader grows tyrannical, wields power wrongly, and devolves into a fallen star and self‐serving “decider,” often surrounded by fawning acolytes.


The subsequent emergence of bad leadership can be averted if leaders will pay attention to the welfare of stakeholders, listen to alternative points of view and perspectives, rely on their team for support, foster a culture of integrity, and cultivate personal awareness. Followers must give honest feedback and develop coalitions to foster a balance of power within the organization. If all else fails, externally‐imposed regulation may be necessary.

Practical implications

The author offers practical advice to both leaders and followers to enable them to avoid the perils of the bad leadership.


By identifying the causes and likely cures for bad leadership and bad followership the author makes it easier for stakeholders to address the problem and take action and for boards to select the right candidates for leadership roles, a critical board responsibility.



Allio, R.J. (2007), "Bad leaders: how they get that way and what to do about them", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 12-17.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited