Nine Habits of False Leaders

by Jeff Benjamin

False leadership is prominent in society. It is important to recognize false leaders so as to not fall under their spell. You also will want to acknowledge when you might be falling into the behaviors that create false leadership.

The following are a few characteristics that are prevalent in counterfeit leaders.

Strives to be liked. Doing what is right means you might not be liked. If your mission is to be liked, then you cannot be an effective leader.  You become nobody when you try to be everything to everybody. Make your decisions on staying true to your integrity and doing what is right. Accept the fact that every leader has an audience that does not like them. Abraham Lincoln preserved the Union by doing what was right instead of being liked by everyone.

Lets adversity destroy vision. William James remarked, “If you care enough for the result, you will most certainly attain it.” Setbacks and failures are inevitable. Learn from them to further support your goals, dreams and vision of what you want to accomplish. A true leader never abandons the vision no matter how tough the ride gets. Do you know the great leader Justin Sane? Of course not, he gave up.

Is above the small work. No job is too small or too insignificant for a true leader. It is more prevalent that great leaders worked menial jobs before rising to the status of a known leader. This is probably one of the reasons why true leaders tend to be humble in their approach when interfacing with followers. Never ask a person to do something that you would not perform.

Blames their predecessor. A false leader blames while a true leader takes accountability. If a new CEO blames the person formerly in charge, then they suffer from false leadership. Blaming the person who proceeded you only makes you look irresponsible and ineffective. If you are the leader, it is time to take ownership to overcome challenges to solve problems.

Gives credence to words. Action determines leadership. Words begin a conversation and intention while action solidifies it. Without the action, words mean nothing. Don’t let your lips outpace your feet.

Acts superior to followers. True leaders are modest in their approach. Serving others is a core characteristic of a bona fide leader. One of the best ways to influence another person is to demonstrate an attitude of equality. The only time you look down on someone is when you are lending a hand to help them up.

Sends conflicting messages. What do you stand for? What do you believe? Be upfront and honest with your position. This should not change depending on which audience you are addressing. Let followers understand your point of view with the caveat that you are open to evolving your outlook. Have the courage to be the person you are. Gandhi wrote, “Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth, for being correct, for being you. Never apologize for being correct, or for being years ahead of your time. If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind.”

Uses fear to control. Do as I say or face a firing squad is the weapon of a false leader. If people fear you, love is lost. Using fear works, but is short lived. Benevolence is the legacy of a great leader. How can you share ways to inspire the right results without threatening or scaring people into acting as you demand?

Takes credit for the contributions of others. Listen to leaders that take credit for mistakes and gives credit to others for successes. Leaders take the initiative, but can never succeed in their approach without the assistance of others. Maybe that is why Alexander Graham Bell proclaimed, “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds. I may be given credit for having blazed the trail, but when I look at the subsequent developments, I feel the credit is due to others rather than myself.”

Guard yourself against false leaders. And, become a true leader.

Best of success to you!

Jeffrey Benjamin is the founder of Breakthrough Training in Reno. He is the co-author of Real Life Habits for Success and contributing author in the book The Sleeping Giant: The Awakening of the Self Employed Entrepreneur. Contact him at

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