Print Сite this

“Bad Leadership” by Barbara Kellerman


The book under consideration is called “Bad Leadership” and is written by Barbara Kellerman (US: Harvard Business Press 2004). The book is a kind of warning for those who blindly follow the false leaders and are unable to differentiate the qualities of a full-fledged leader. In addition, the book explains the reader that sometimes leadership guidebooks cannot explain the shortcomings of bad leadership and the difference between a good and a bad leader. Moreover, the book discloses the solutions in detecting bad leadership.

We will write a
custom essay
specifically for you

for only $16.05 $11/page
308 certified writers online
Learn More

Barbara Kellerman is acknowledged by many researchers which are proved by numerous articles that positively evaluate the concept of her study. She also takes very responsible positions and obtained many awards. Her recent works in this field are well known all over the world and have recognition in the most respectable capitals. Her works are especially valuable taking into consideration the dramatic development of management schools and its leadership orientation. Due to the fact that nowadays many outstanding companies are mostly centered on the leadership theory and its constant study, Barbara Kellerman opens a second view on that theory. In the organizational structure of the company, she deviates from the outright following the laws of power and money and reject to be subjected to their influence on both the leaders and the followers.

The book comprises seven types of bad leadership and points how to define bad leaders and to minimize the abuse of authority. Each type of bad leadership is followed by the opposed ideas concerning the positive qualities a good should possess. In each chapter, the writer discloses the nature of such phenomenon as “leadership” asserting that some evil forces induce the leader to lead and the follower to fall.

Main Body

In the first part of the book, the author figures out the reasons of the bad leadership appearance and people’s desire to follow and to lead. She touches upon the historical, political and philosophical background of the leadership and declares to pay much attention to develop the good virtues in a person rather than how to capture the power over the followers. In the first chapter, Kellerman tells us about the necessity to study the history of bad leaders such as Adolph Hitler whose power was mostly based on fear, coercion, and absolute subordination. She considers the nature of evil in person and the complexity of human nature. Therefore, she reveals the difficulty in defining a bad leader. In addition, the author regards some external factors that influence bad followers.

Kellerman’s approaches to the problem are rather untraditional. She pays a significant attention to dark side of the leadership and, therefore, is a great mentor of this method of study. The study of this theme is not restricted by the analysis of this one research book. This book supported by other numerous works in this particular field. Thus, Kellerman’s works are also dedicated to the examination of bad followership and the main principles how to become a good follower. These concepts are considered in the work “Followership” where the importance to know how to lead is regarded. In other works, she also considers gender peculiarities and their impact on the leadership in general, political leadership and the history of leadership as well. Especially, the writer pays the most of attention to some peripheral effects of leadership. Anyway, generally viewing the whole research area of Kellerman, the problem of leadership is touched upon in all her works.

The book singles out the incompetence and inefficiency as the main background of a failed leadership. Hence comes, the writer makes an accent to all the vices of bad leadership from indifference to rigidity. Therefore, here she reveals seven kinds of evil leaders providing bright examples from the history and shows the deviation of leader’s qualities from good to bad. The book also detects the role of followers and the way they affect bad leadership. It logically ends with description of solutions that should be made to avoid the bad leader influence and to become better followers. The writer gives the prescription how to define the “dark side of the human condition” (Kellerman, B. 2004 p. 219). Therefore, the final chapter learns how to cultivate cardinal virtues and to have a good command in the field of leadership. In addition, the writer displays the real consequences of bad leadership that is considered the basis for people to estimate the costs of bad followership. From Kellerman’s point of view, the idealized outlook on the leaders and blinded following them is also explained by the animal instincts and need for security and safety. It is necessary to mention that Kellerman considers leadership in different contexts and analyzes the individuals in different environments.

It should be noted that the great merit of the book consists in the outright description of drawbacks of leadership. Like positive leaders, bad leaders may be classified into different types. According to this type, we can single out the main features of a good leader. To start with, a good leader should limit his/her power in order to avoid overestimation of his/her ability to govern. Hence comes, a veritable leader should be able to share power and to distribute obligations among the followers. Furthermore, a good leader should be a balanced person since the outright dedication to a job is a dangerous thing. Therefore, balanced leadership creates better organizational network. The next outcome of irrational leadership is that the leader should compensate his/her weak points rather than to conceal them. Sooner or later, a leader will have to face the difficulties and could have negative consequences both to the leader and to the company it manages.

Get your
100% original paper
on any topic

done in as little as
3 hours
Learn More

The value of the book also lies in the introduction of numerous examples from history. The writer focuses on several individual stories about historic leaders, including Mary Meeker, Andrew Fastow, Al Dunlap, Stalin, Adolph Hitler and many others. Each story represents separate types of bad leadership that are rather different in its nature.

In a whole, the structure of the book is rather clear and the ideas have theoretical and practical ground. To my mind, the core point of the book and other works of this writer can be reduced to one statement “Leaders cannot lead unless followers follow” (Kellerman, B. 2004 p. 14) In this saying lies the whole significance and role of the book.

Thorough overhaul of the book brings me to conclusion that the author has made a considerable contribution to the development of the leadership science. The author has disclosed the problem of leadership from historic, social, philosophical, and psychological angles. The main peculiarity of the work consists in the considering this topic not only in terms of business organizations but also in terms of social and cultural conditions. She touches upon the biblical leaders and their influence on the followed society.

The idea of the book is interwoven with the topic of human nature and eternal conflict of the Good and the Evil. Simply speaking, the writer states that there are no totally bad and good leaders as well as people. As human nature is rather complex, the same we could state about the bad leadership: it does not prevail but it exists. Moreover, both bad leadership and good leadership is still leadership, and therefore, all leaders have much in common. Kellerman has prompted how to differentiate between them in order to choose the right leader to follow. As I have mentioned, the book instructs us about the bad followers that can be useful for those who are subjected to bad leadership. Sometimes, followers can positively influence their senior managers. Therefore, she should not underestimate this category of people.


The work can serve as a reference book and can meet the requirement of different layers of the society. The book will be useful for humble population since the language of the book is rather simple and available. Business people who want to explore their knowledge about leadership and to learn how to be successful managers can also use it. Kellerman’s ideas will assist people who are not involved on business still has relation to the leadership in other spheres of life such as religion. The work might even be helpful for children and for parents to reveal either feature of a leader or a follower in their children.

Reference List

Kellerman, B. (2004). Bad Leadership: what it is, how it happens, why it matters. US: Harvard Business Press.

Leveriza, M. (2008). Barbara Kellerman. Web.

We will write a custom
for you!
Get your first paper with
15% OFF
Learn More

Cite this paper

Select style


StudyCorgi. (2021, November 6). “Bad Leadership” by Barbara Kellerman. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2021, November 6). “Bad Leadership” by Barbara Kellerman.

Work Cited

"“Bad Leadership” by Barbara Kellerman." StudyCorgi, 6 Nov. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "“Bad Leadership” by Barbara Kellerman." November 6, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "“Bad Leadership” by Barbara Kellerman." November 6, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "“Bad Leadership” by Barbara Kellerman." November 6, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) '“Bad Leadership” by Barbara Kellerman'. 6 November.

This paper was written and submitted to our database by a student to assist your with your own studies. You are free to use it to write your own assignment, however you must reference it properly.

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal.