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Leadership Flaws and Disengagement

Leadership plays a key role in employee engagement.  Zenger and Folkman outlined the 10 fatal flaws of bad leaders in the Harvard Business Review. The biggest flaw was lacking energy and enthusiasm which would be the raw material of engagement not only for leaders but for employees.

According to the Harvard Business Reviews newsletter:

After scrutinizing 360-degree feedback data on over 11,000 leaders and evaluating the 10% considered the least effective, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman found the 10 most common leadership shortcomings. These are ranked according to the size of the difference between successful and unsuccessful leaders’ scores; successful and failed leaders differed most significantly in their energy and enthusiasm.

The Worst Leaders

What links do you see between leadership flaws and disengagement?


  1. David, this is quite a list. I’ve never seen the “lack of energy and enthusiasm” tag come out so high.That and #2 on the list say to me that poor leaders are not at all grounded in their own passion, and it’s no surprise, then, that the article also reports how their self-perceptions don’t match others’ perceptions of them. Little self-knowledge.

    Why on earth would anyone want to work with/for such an individual? I’d disengage right away!

  2. Dan:

    It is quite a list and energy and enthusiasm are the roots of work. Yikes and we often task leaders with engaging others.


  3. David, from a purely “gut feel” and without any imperical basis, I find the data to be a bit suspect. I say this because in my personal observations from 30 years in military leadership and later Human Resources, one of the greatest flaws in poor leaders/managers is the lack of effective and continuous communication (down/sideways/up). I believe this would be amongst the top two as it pertains to employee engagement. But it isn’t even one of the top 10??? Am I wrong here?

  4. JR,
    Good points. I know there is a new HRB article on this topic. I have not seen the full article and it might provide a clearer articulation of their conclusions.

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