What Leadership List Are You On?

At the beginning of my leadership workshops, one of the ice-breaking activities is to have the participants think about and jot down the characteristics and behaviors of great and lousy leaders that they’ve experienced in their careers.  

It’s always fun to watch the small groups attack this task with relish.  Some groups immediately move towards the “lousy” leaders column and literally burn through the ink in their markers.  Others gravitate towards the “great” leaders column and often lose track of the assignment as they start describing to their group members why so and so was such a great leader.  

One element of this exercise that is very predictable is the listing of the items that make it into each column.  In class after class and by now with several hundred data points, the words and behaviors are consistently the same.

The Lousy Leaders:

  • Don’t pay attention
  • Actions don’t match words
  • Self-serving agenda-all about them
  • No coaching or feedback/focuses on weaknesses
  • No developmental support
  • Disrespectful
  • Micromanages
  • CYA style of leading
  • Not approachable
  • Won’t make a decision
The Great Leaders:
  • Supported my professional development
  • Treated me with respect at ll times
  • Honest
  • Gave me feedback/coaching
  • Makes decisions in a timely manner
  • Pushed me out of my comfort zone
  • Didn’t throw me under the bus when I made a mistake
  • Acted as a mentor and teacher
  • Easy to approach 
  • Gave me room to grow and learn
Interestingly, the formula for great leadership is not locked away in a vault like the formula for Coca Cola.  It’s on display for everyone to see and use.  What list are you on?
By |2016-10-22T17:12:10+00:00May 5th, 2009|Career, Leadership|5 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Gwyn Teatro May 5, 2009 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    It would be interesting to see if we could get all “lousy leaders” in a room and ask them to do the same exercise, what their lists would look like. 🙂

  2. Art Petty May 5, 2009 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    Gwyn, I like your thinking! If only…

  3. Three Star Leadership Blog May 6, 2009 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    5/6/09: Midweek Look at the Independent Business Blogs…

    Every week I select five excellent posts from this week’s independent business blogs. This week, I’m pointing you to posts on employee engagement, feedback, supervision, communication, and what kind of leader you are.

  4. Fred H Schlegel May 7, 2009 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Sad thing is, if you did pull all the lousy leaders into a room they probably wouldn’t recognize themselves on the first list. That or they’d want to move the conversation towards lousy followers… 🙂

  5. […] What Leadership List Are You On? (Art Petty) […]

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