Classic: Extreme Leadership Types

Originally published:  March 11, 2011

While working on one of my novels (HEIR APPARENT, cover photo shown below), I found myself exploring several hard-to-work-for leadership styles.  The novel got me thinking about the many different kinds of extreme leaders that I’ve encountered over the years and how many different ways there are for leaders to fail in their jobs.

My initial investigation into this subject on the web yielded little material and even less insight.  As a result, I've decided to take a different tact by adapting a leadership guide published by Darrell Zahorsky, and imagining what could happen when the "successful" leadership styles described there are pushed to the extreme.

I've developed a list of ten extreme leadership styles -- the types of things that cause partial or total failure of the executive in their job.  As you read the descriptions, you should think of these as “extreme CEOs” as that is where the failings will be most plainly evident.  The behaviors of CEOs, after all, are much less externally regulated than the behaviors of those below them on the ladder -- who criticizes the CEO to his face?  I've seen several of these failed leadership types, and am intimately familiar with a couple of them.

Throwback Cover Image -- the original cover of Leverage.

Throwback Cover Image -- the original cover of Leverage.

So without further ado, here are the ten extreme leadership types that ultimately lead to failure:

1.  The Super-critic -- In this leadership style, the CEO become so critical of everyone's efforts that no one does anything to his satisfaction.

2.  The Micro-manager -- Micro managers take the super-critic one step further, substituting the CEO's judgment for... pretty much everyone's.  The Micro-manager sees himself as a genius among morons, and rarely allows anyone else's decision to stand unaltered.

3.  The Burnout -- This leader has had enough… of everything – enough struggle, enough competition, and enough conflict.  She should retire, but keeps hanging on, much to everyone's chagrin.

4.  The Diva – He really isn't interested in what he can do for the company, only what the company can do for him.  He is focused on money, power, prestige or a combination of the three.

5.  The Oddball -- Locked into outdated or ineffective leadership paradigms, this CEOs actions seem to have little or nothing to do with success or failure for the company.

B&W version of the Leverage Cover

B&W version of the Leverage Cover

6.  The Blame-gamer -- Every problem or shortcoming has a name attached to it, and you can guarantee it isn't hers.  She'll make sure to position every risk so that someone else will take the fall.

7.  The Procrastinator -- Unable to make a decision without perfect information, this leader is perpetually stuck in neutral and hoping someone else will step forward and take a stand.

8.  The Regurgitator -- A variant on the Procrastinator, this leader decides, reconsiders and then decides again in a seemingly endless loop.

9.  The Screamer – This CEO his way through a combination of intimidation and brow-beating.  He is usually dramatic, and sometimes reacts just for show.

10.  The Gentleman – He can't imagine doing, saying, or deciding anything in a way that might offend someone.  This CEO has a tough time making decisions that might impact other's opinion of him.

Leverage Audiobook cover

Leverage Audiobook cover

This list of extreme leadership types is not necessarily exhaustive, nor are the an “either/or” situation -- any given leader may demonstrate characteristics of multiple extreme types, while also doing some or even a lot of things right.

I would love to hear comments on other “Extreme Leadership” types that have led to the ultimate downfall of the leader or the organization – please post these in the comments section and, if timely, I’ll add them to the series.

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To the right is the cover of LEVERAGE.  This novel explores the theft of sensitive DOD designs from a Minneapolis Tech Company, and the dangers associated with digging too deeply into the surrounding mystery.  The tale features first level manager, Mark Carson, and the struggle he experiences as he finds the resources of the corporation aligned against him.  Its sequel, PURSUING OTHER OPPORTUNITIES, was released in May of 2014.  A third book in the series, OUTSOURCED, is in the works.

My novels are based on extensions of 27 years of personal experience as a senior manager in public corporations.