Unquintessential leader attribute: cowardiceI recently discussed some of the attributes that set quintessential leaders apart. In this post, we will look at the flip side of this and discuss some of the attributes of unquintessential leaders.

One attribute of unquintessential leaders is cowardice. The way this often manifests itself is that unquintessential leaders will appoint surrogates to be the “bad guys” (these are team members who unwittingly are people-pleasers and who are always willing to be the first to raise their hands whenever someone in a leadership position asks for volunteers).

While these surrogates are, in principle, given the green light to address problems and issues on the team, they have no real authority to actually correct them.

When other team members understandably get upset at having their peers address matters of concern and the unquintessential leader finally gets involved by default, their response is to throw their surrogates under the bus, undermine any tasks they gave to the surrogates to handle, and present themselves as the “good guys.”

Not only is this the epitome of cowardice, but it is also patently fraudulent and dishonest behavior.

And the problems and issues still exist, uncorrected, and growing.

Unquintessential Leader Attribute: Lack of VisionAnother attribute of unquintessential leaders is that they lack an ability to see the big picture and, as a result, they lack vision.

This manifests itself in short-term, right-here-right-now thinking and behavior that focuses solely on an immediate need with no regard for content, substance, and eventual outcomes.

When this type of behavior and thinking progresses, big problems – frequently at a point too late in the game to fix and to overcome – emerge and many times lead to ultimate failure, not only in the current project or goal, but in any future ones that might have followed if the current one had been successful.

This dramatically and adversely affects the bottom line for any organization where this occurs – and the situation is not corrected – and will eventually lead to the organization’s failure (all most organizations need to ultimately fail is one major fiasco and the resulting wildfire spread, now even easier with technology, of that fiasco to everybody else).

Unquintessential Leader Attribute: Lack of ConsistencyA third attribute of unquintessential leaders is their pervasive lack of consistency in who they are, what they are, and in everything they do and say. They are chameleons. They are wishy-washy.

They are also fundamentally dishonest. They can never be trusted.

It is inconceivable with them to know who will show up at any given time, so the atmosphere around them and that they create is constantly unstable, changing, and impossible to predict or nail down. 

This creates a team and an environment that is always off balance and the result is a lack of consistent outcomes and results with these kinds of teams and environments. 

A fourth attribute of unquintessential leaders is their lack of self-control. This shows up in many ways, but it is most obvious in their lack of equanimity in all situations and being inappropriate in their behavior toward their teams.

All of us in leadership positions find equanimity hard at times. We’re human and we’re emotional beings.

Occasionally, due to an avalanche of factors that occur simultaneously, even those of us who are striving to be quintessential leaders (equanimity is a must) struggle with and fail at controlling our emotions and responses and reactions.

However, the difference between quintessential leaders and unquintessential leaders in this area is that quintessential leaders are struggling (actively engaged in exercising self-control) while unquintessential leaders are not struggling (they don’t care).

Unquintesssential Leader Attribute: Lack of Self-ControlUnquintessential leaders throw tantrums routinely, yelling, stomping, threatening, and sometimes cursing everything and everyone in their paths. They never admit they were wrong. They never apologize. And they never change their behavior.

Instead, they blame others for their lack of self-control and wear their lack of equanimity as a badge of honor and source of pride as they repeatedly, usually with glee, retell the stories of their tantrums and emotional outbursts.

The other area where unquintessential leaders show their pervasive lack of control is in their perpetual inappropriateness in their behavior (actions and words) toward and with their teams (and all other people).

This inappropriateness includes openly ridiculing and tearing down people, routinely cursing when talking with people, disparaging people because of their race or ethnicity, and being sexually suggestive as a matter of course.

A final attribute of unquintessential leaders – this list is not exhaustive – is their lack of impartiality.

This manifests itself in favoritism, where a few team members (those who follow unquintessential leaders blindly, stroke their egos, fawn over them, agree with everything they do and say, Unquintessential Leader Attribute: Favoritismnever question the rightness or wrongness of anything, and who are generally nakedly ambitious power seekers and unscrupulous political strategists aiming for their own leadership positions) are privy to confidential and sensitive information about the rest of the team, are given preferential treatment in everything, and are protected, no matter what they do or say, by the unquintessential leader.

This results in inequality and unfairness regarding the team as a whole. It rapidly becomes clear that two different sets of rules exist: one for this group of sycophants (they can do whatever they want) and another for everyone else.

The utter weakness, the systemic lack of character, and the complete absence of integrity and trustworthiness of the unquintessential leader is fully exposed when favoritism is extant and on display for all to see.

For those of us striving to become quintessential leaders – not a one of us, including me, is there yet – these attributes of unquintessential leaders are an everpresent threat. The motivations behind them are motivations that are hardwired in us as humans.

Therefore, we must be aware of them and where they lurk in our own lives (this requires us looking diligently and deeply into our own selves continually for them).

Then we must choose to reject them. This is where real struggles can ensue because these attributes are, quite frankly, natural to us and they are the easy way. 

Quintessential leadership is not the easy way. It’s the difficult way because it requires us to be different from who we, at our basest natures, are.

In the end, quintessential leadership either exists or doesn’t.

How and if we lead (unquintessential leaders do not lead) is the cumulative result of all the choices we make every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every year that we breathe for a living.

When we reject the attributes of unquintessential leadership, then we must fill the void by choosing the attributes of quintessential leadership and developing them so that they become our automatic way of being, responding, reacting, and leading.

How are we doing?





  1. I totally agree with everything you say in this post. I have seen many unquintessential leaders doing their thing – which actually is not pretty to look at (as the old saying goes). I have actually laughed in the face of a lady years ago who was an unquintessential leader. I could not help it, she was so ridiculously funny throwing her tantrum. Have had a few of these types of people try to throw me under the bus. But, I was smart enough to escape without any damage to my career. There are too many unquintessential leaders in this world. Like this post very much Sandra.


  2. […] described some of the attributes of this loose cannon type of unquintessential leader recently, and in my own experience have worked with both types of unquintessential leaders and […]


  3. […] than consistent jerks and loose cannons who are in leadership positions – both types are unquintessential leaders – to see that their approach is always […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s