20 Ways to Detect a Deceitful Leader

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

Detecting Deceitful Leaders

Have you ever had an uneasy feeling that a leader is not as genuine or sincere as you would expect? There are numerous signals and behaviors that distinguish a genuine leader from someone who is simply trying to achieve a personal—perhaps deceitful—agenda. If you observe carefully, you can find what is causing the uneasy feeling.

Listed in the following comparison are ways to distinguish between genuine leadership and a person in a leadership position who has hidden motives. Some behaviors are stated in the extreme— just to emphasize the point. Deceitful leaders are also very good at what they do, so observe them closely.


“Behaviors can distinguish a deceitful leader from a genuine leader.” -Bruce Rhoades



Comparison: True Leaders and Deceitful Leaders


  1. Leaders bring people together for common goals. Deceitful Leaders divide people and focus on narrow issues that may be part of an unstated, deceitful goal.

“Leaders bring people together for common goals.” -Bruce Rhoades


  1. Leaders encourage open, direct communication. Deceitful Leaders display a low tolerance for open communication. They control information.

“Leaders encourage open, direct communication.” -Bruce Rhoades


  1. Leaders solicit and consider opposing views and positions. Deceitful Leaders exhibit little tolerance for opposing views. They may reject opposing views or ideas without consideration and limit debate.

“Leaders solicit and consider opposing views.” -Bruce Rhoades


  1. Leaders use larger goals to energize and unite people. Deceitful Leaders use divisive, negative characterization of issues and groups to energize followers.

“Leaders use larger goals to energize and unite people.” -Bruce Rhoades


  1. Leaders are transparent, have an open agenda and stated purposes. Deceitful Leaders carefully manage issues and what people hear. They often have a hidden agenda.

“Deceitful leaders carefully manage issues and what people hear.” -Bruce Rhoades


  1. Leaders stick to values, principles and ethical guidelines. Deceitful Leaders will use the “end justifies the means” to achieve objectives.

“Leaders stick to values, principles and ethical guidelines.” -Bruce Rhoades


  1. Leaders listen attentively. Deceitful Leaders talk more than listen. They occasionally shout or “preach.”

“Leaders listen attentively.” -Bruce Rhoades


  1. Leaders show respect for each individual. Deceitful Leaders respect only those who are like-minded and disenfranchise those who are not like-minded.

“Deceitful leaders respect only those who are like-minded.” -Bruce Rhoades


  1. Leaders want individuals to thrive and work from principles and values. They encourage individual initiative. Deceitful Leaders want control and dutiful obedience; “punishing” those who are “out of line.”   Individual initiative is rarely appreciated.

“Leaders want individuals to thrive and work from principles and values.” -Bruce Rhoades


  1. Leaders use facts and logic. Deceitful Leaders use emotions (with bias toward negative ones).

“Leaders use facts and logic.” -Bruce Rhoades


  1. Leaders share data and influence with clearly stated facts, options and conclusions. Deceitful Leaders state conclusions and positions with limited substance and fact. They may use charged rhetoric or misleading data.

“Deceitful leaders use charged rhetoric and misleading data.” -Bruce Rhoades

39 Traits of a Bad Boss

The Officially Bad Boss

All of us have some negative qualities, make mistakes, and mess up. After all, “We’re only human.”

But bad managers seem to collect these traits faster than a hoarder fills a house.  If you are working for someone and find yourself nodding vigorously as you read this list, you officially have a bad boss.

What traits would you add to the list?

  1. Self-centered

Everything is about him. Not the organizational goals, but his bonus. Not about the team, but about his individual performance. “How I look” is more important than anything else.


“Leaders enjoy giving credit to others.” -Skip Prichard


  1. Steals credit

You work all night to get it done. Instead of praising you, you find your name removed and her name prominently at the top. She basks in the light of your success and barely acknowledges your contribution.


“Leaders create results by letting others shine.” -Skip Prichard


  1. Bullies

Threats and intimidation mark the way he manages. You are not asked; you are bullied.

  1. Poor self-awareness

What seems obvious to everyone else, she misses. Her effect on people is something that she completely misses. She never comes back and apologizes or corrects a misunderstanding because she is just not aware of her impact.

  1. Manages up

Sure, everyone needs to manage up. But, he does it exclusively. His boss loves him. Everyone else sees that he sucks up so much that he has little time for anything else.

  1. Always right

You are frequently wrong, but she never is. She can never admit a mistake because it would threaten her self-esteem.


“Freely admitting mistakes is a sign of leadership.” -Skip Prichard


  1. Poor communicator

Information is withheld. Few understand what he means. More time is spent trying to decode the little communication that happens than actually listening to the message.


“A bad boss withholds information in an effort to manipuate.” -Skip Prichard


  1. Unable to get the best from people

People may stay in the job, but they are not motivated. No one tries to do more than the minimum.

  1. Micromanages

She dictates every last detail. There is no room for creativity or deviation from the plan. You are to execute orders and report back. Constantly.

  1. Missing in action

He is never around when you need him to make a decision or weigh in.

  1. Never praises or encourages

If you read a positive word on your performance review, your heart would stop so long you would need a doctor. You never hear a single positive word.


“A bad boss wallows in the negative. A leader seeks the positive.” -Skip Prichard


  1. Wants only praise and good news

You have a problem, but he will not listen. You lost an account, but you cannot bring it up. Problems must be hidden. Only good news is shared because he cannot seem to handle anything more.

  1. Disingenuous

He may praise you, but he doesn’t mean it. His body language betrays his real emotion.