5 Ineffective Leadership Signs and How to Deal With Them

You’ve all had that boss who prevented you from achieving the mission due to his or her ineffective leadership habits. You know the one. The boss who assigns you a task and makes you responsible for its success but fails to share the information you need to complete it. The boss who not only gives you the task but tells you step-by-step how to accomplish it. The boss who presents one of your great ideas as his or her own and takes all the credit for it.

These types of bosses all share some of the same ineffective leadership habits. Here are five ineffective leadership signs and how to deal with them:

Not sharing information

Not sharing information is a sign of a control freak. If the boss keeps information from you, it’s hard for you to plan and prioritize a task. It’s also next to impossible for you to complete a task when the boss is hoarding some of the information you need to successfully achieve it.

If your boss is guilty of not sharing information, what can you do? You can ask questions. Ask questions that will draw out more information about the task. What organizational need is driving the task? How is the task important to the organization? How will completion of the task be measured? Asking a lot of questions probably won’t change your boss, but you’ll have more opportunity to successfully complete the task if you can extract more information.


Micromanaging is also a sign of a control freak. It’s hard to be confident in your abilities to get the job done with the boss lingering nearby, watching your every move and getting involved in every detail of what you are trying to accomplish.

How do you respond if your boss is micromanaging you? Just like if your boss is guilty of not sharing information, you can ask questions. Ask questions about the expectations for an assignment. When will it be due? How would you like for me to accomplish it? What should the end result look like? How will the organization use these results? Provide your boss with frequent updates on the status of an assignment. While asking questions and providing frequent updates won’t likely ease the anxiety your boss has about an assignment, doing so can help you regain some control over your work in a micromanaged environment.

Not delegating

Not delegating is a sign of a control freak too. Not delegating tasks that can be completed by others keeps the boss from being able to properly focus on issues which require attention at his or her level. The boss may think that no one else can perform a task as well as or as fast as he or she can. It may mean that the boss does not trust others. Sometimes a boss won’t delegate because completing a task leads to continued feelings of self-importance.

According to British-American motivational speaker and leadership guru Simon Sinek, “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.” Not delegating can hamper employee growth. When the boss doesn’t delegate, employees aren’t given opportunities to learn new things.

If your boss is not delegating to you, how can you persuade him or her to do so? First, let your boss know that you realize how busy he or she is. Be supportive by offering to take on an additional task. Point out your experience and how you think it will lead to successful completion of the task. If you are successful in convincing your boss to let you take on the task, your next step is to demonstrate to your boss that you have successfully completed the task. Once you have proven yourself, your boss will be more confident in delegating to you again in the future.

Taking all the credit for everything

If the boss is taking all the credit for everything, it can lead to feelings of defeat. Employee recognition is important. It’s disheartening to expend extraordinary effort only to have someone else take all the credit. The best ideas may be held more closely next time if the boss makes it a habit of taking ownership for all ideas.

According to Harry S. Truman, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Try to change your perspective. If your boss is truly taking all the credit, it’s likely because he or she values your ideas. Accept that as a compliment.

If your boss is taking all the credit for everything, how can you change his or her behavior? Your boss may be less likely to steal all the credit if the whole team knows who did what work from the beginning. Be sure to document as you go. You may also be able to teach your boss how to give credit to others by setting the example yourself. Give others on the team credit for their own ideas in front of your boss. Mention how valuable their input is and how much you appreciate it. Eventually, your boss may pick up the habit of giving proper credit where credit is due.

Not clearly communicating the vision 

When the boss is not clearly communicating the vision, there can be a serious lack of focus and direction. Confusion and misunderstanding often flourish. If the boss delivers mixed messages about the vision, he or she is not effectively leading. According to American businessman and religious leader Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Great leaders communicate a vision that captures the imagination and fires the hearts and minds of those around them.”

A vision motivates and inspires you to achieve your goals and the goals of your organization. How do you handle it if you are perplexed about the vision because your boss is not able to clearly communicate it? If you are confused about the vision, others probably are too. Facilitate a conversation with your boss. Try this in a group setting in a room with your peers so that they can help interpret what is said. Ask questions until you understand the direction and expectations. Once you and the group believe that you have a basic understanding of the vision, go with it.

Final thoughts 

Ineffective leadership isn’t difficult to recognize. You’ve all had bosses who exhibit the signs. Not sharing information, micromanaging, not delegating, taking all the credit for everything and not clearly communicating the vision are some of the indicators. At the end of the day, your actions may not change your boss or any of his or her ineffective leadership behaviors. However, you might still be able to find meaningful ways to deal with the behaviors, achieve your organization’s mission and achieve professional growth.

Sherrie P. Mitchell is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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Avatar photo Blake Martin

These are excellent indicators that a boss is going to require you to take the extra step or two to ensure success. The next steps you proposed are excellent ways to start a dialogue, or perhaps a crucial conversation- I really appreciated that often the best thing to do to mitigate ineffective leadership is to communicate or over-communicate. Great piece!