5 Characteristics of Weak Leaders (and How Not to Be One)

Sometimes you learn from positive role models. Often you learn from negative ones. This is one of the reasons I love to read history—you inevitably get both.

5 Characteristics of Weak Leaders

After watching Steven Spielberg’s movie Lincoln, I decided to review Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I had read this book a few years ago. It is a page-turning account of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and his political genius.

At the beginning of Lincoln’s first term, he appointed each of his former Republican rivals—those who had run against him for his party’s nomination—to cabinet posts. The narrative demonstrates his amazing ability to tap into a broad array of perspectives and create alignment among those who often disagreed violently with one another.

Unfortunately, Lincoln’s leadership was not perfect. He occasionally selected men for public service who were unworthy of his trust. One such individual was General George B. McClellan, commander of the “Army of the Potomac” and, eventually, first general-in-chief of the Union Army.

General McClellan had significant character flaws that I believe serve as warning signs to anyone in leadership. Ultimately, these cost him dearly: He lost Lincoln’s confidence, his job, and a run for the White House (against Lincoln). Worse, they prolonged the Civil War and cost the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides of the conflict.

Here are the five flaws I jotted down as I read the book:

  1. Hesitating to take definitive action. McClellan was constantly preparing. According to him, the Army was never quite ready. The troops just needed a little more training. In his procrastination, he refused to engage the enemy, even when he clearly had the advantage. He could just not bring himself to launch an attack. When Lincoln finally relieved him of his duties, he famously said, “If General McClellan does not want to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a time.”
  2. Complaining about a lack of resources. He constantly complained about the lack of available resources. He didn’t have enough men. His men weren’t paid enough. They didn’t have enough heavy artillery. And on and on he went. The truth is that, as a leader, you never have enough resources. You could always use more of one thing or another. But the successful leaders figure out how to get the job done with the resources they have.
  3. Refusing to take responsibility. McClellan blamed everyone else for his mistakes and for his refusal to act. He even blamed the President. Every time he suffered a defeat or a setback, someone or something was to blame. He was a master finger-pointer. Great leaders don’t do this. They are accountable for the results and accept full responsibility for the outcomes.
  4. Abusing the privileges of leadership. While his troops were struggling in almost unbearable conditions, McClellan lived in near-royal splendor. He spent almost every evening entertaining guests with elaborate dinners and parties. He insisted on the best clothes and accommodations. His lifestyle stood in distinct contrast to General Ulysses S. Grant, his eventual successor, who often traveled with only a toothbrush.
  5. Engaging in acts of insubordination. McClellan openly and continually criticized the President, his boss. He was passive-aggressive. Even when Lincoln gave him a direct order, he found a way to avoid obeying it. In his arrogance, he always knew better than the President and had a ready excuse to rationalize his lack of follow-through.

President Lincoln had the patience of Job. He gave General McClellan numerous opportunities to correct his behavior and redeem himself. But in the end, McClellan either could not or would not do so. He left the President no choice but to relieve him of his duties.

These same character flaws afflict many leaders today. The best safeguard is self-awareness.

By the way, you might want to read this post with your team and then discuss it. Even better, read the book and discuss it.

Question: Do you see any of these flaws in your own leadership? What can you do to correct them now—while you still have time? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • smackmathew

    Great post Michael. I’ve always had a deep interest in Lincoln and the Civil war, particularly after going to Gettysburg and seeing where he wrote and gave the Gettysburg address. Hallowed ground.

    I think my biggest Character flaw as a leader is number one on your list. Hesitation to engage. However, I have recently decided to pull the trigger on my blog, even though it isn’t perfect, and I fight the temptation to tinker versus write almost daily. Thanks for your helpful guidance.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You’re not alone. I think this is a big challenge for all of us. The amazing thing is that once we take that first step, most of us keep going.

      • Hills143

        I have hesitated recently in big ways in some projects recently. Next thing I know something else came along that I was ready and willing to act on. In the meantime someone else acted on the project that I hesitated on. Then I was for Ed to reaction instead of action. Reaction is much less comfortable and I owe an apology for some who were waiting for me to act. Thanks for the article.

        • http://www.joshuabfarrell.com/ JB Farrell

           As I have pursued more and more opportunities in life I usually find that: doing opens the door to my understanding of how to do it.

  • FromHisPresence

    Awesome post. This so speaks to me, especially point #4. I became a leader by accident, without any intentions to lead at all. I just had a sudden desire to be useful, so I started serving in really menial ways. Serving helped me build relationships, which gave me permission to speak into people’s lives, which eventually led to leadership. 

    I heard Bill Johnson of Bethel Church (Redding, CA) say recently, “Those who are first in authority must be last in privilege.” That matches this point: people will follow those who serve them. :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That quote from Bill Johnson is fabulous! Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.joshuabfarrell.com/ JB Farrell

       I agree, I had to repost that quote on Facebook and twitter.

  • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/p/about-me.html Lawrence W. Wilson

    This is so right on. Right now, I’m working on #2. I don’t know of a church that has all the resources it needs to accomplish its vision. We’re all dealing with that gap. I believe we can succeed anyway.

    • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

      You’re so right, Lawrence

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I so agree.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       That gap can be frustrating, especially in ministry. I love your attitude.

      • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/p/about-me.html Lawrence W. Wilson

        Thanks, Michele. I wish I could say that attitude came naturally, but it’s come at the end of a long process. To me, this point (complaining vs. problem solving) is one of the primary distinctions between a leader and a manager (ala Warren Bennis).

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    I need to before present in leadership. I asked a few of the people I lead what they thought I could work on and that was a big part of it. So, #1, I’m thrilled they were honest with me. #2 I certainly plan to heed their advice.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      What a gift! It is rare for people to be that honest and really says something positive about your leadership, Sundi Jo.

  • http://www.momsmustardseeds.com/ Rebecca Brandt

    Arrogance and Pride lead to the destruction of many leaders.  They find themselves in positions they have not truly earned and instead of remembering – the best leader is a servant first, they become authoritarians (pt #4).  Thank you for this post.  It is a good reminder about leadership and how to determine who we should ‘follow’ and how we should lead.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      So true Rebecca – pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. The ancient Greeks called such a flaw – hubris, regrettably we in this culture tend to label it as “assertive” or a “hard charger” and reward it.

  • Namcy

    Blame will’keep’us from growing as a leader.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      I agree. The best leaders I’ve ever worked with were the first to accept blame and the first to share their success with others.

  • http://twitter.com/HodgsonAlison Alison Hodgson

    Great post. 

    Regarding #3, so often leaders to give lip service to this. “I take full responsibility” means nothing. I’ve seen this in personal encounters as well as with national leaders, and it really turns me off. Taking responsibility means actually bearing the cost.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Great point, Alison. Taking responsibility is active, and includes searching for and implementing a solution, if at all possible.

    • Doug R

      It’s usually rhetoric when politicians or people in the lime light say it.

  • JuliePerrine2

    OUCH! #2 You hit the thumb with the hammer!  Running a non-profit brings challenges a plenty and when support wanes, and you’re faced with 

    • Mhunt

      Julie, you are not alone! As a fellow non-profit leader, lamenting the lack of reources is also my biggest weakness right now!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill


      I am with you 100%

      Try this post Michael wrote in 2010, “What Have You Got To Complain About?”

      I think the video is amazing and point #3 that Michael makes was the big take away for me!

      Thanks, Julie!

      • JuliePerrine2


        Thank you so much for sharing that wonderful post and video.  What a beautiful testimony to the power of God to work in and through our weaknesses.  My brother was handicapped and while not a musical genius, he brought so much to so many in his lifetime simply through his smile and bright blue eyes.  This was shown by the two services that were held for him after his passing.Right now, I am readying for a banquet tonight, and even though out two days sick and with no help, I am not complaining.  I am just relying on God to work my brain and fly my fingers on the keyboard to produce two more speeches in the next two hours.  With His help, I know they will be the right words.God speed. and by the way…I follow you too.  Keep up the great posts!Julie

        • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

          Julie, I hope your banquet went well and you are feeling better.Thanks so much for your kind words and for your willingness to follow God with all your heart—it encourages me!


      • Doug R

        What is being blind compared to what we all lost in Adam? Eternal life. A minister once started to curse one of my handicaps and I grabbed his hand off me and said – “There’s no illness in heaven, right?”
        He agreed.
        “There’s no marriage either and I’m not cursing yours. This illness originally humbled me to hear from our father in heaven. You can pray for me but don’t curse, please”
        Even though our father in heaven has allowed me to bear sufferings he has also comforted me with wonderful gifts.

    • Doug R

      I was thinking of how I’m treated at my job and the cronyism. I used to complain about it or get upset and it dawned on me that being ignored has preserved me, kept me hidden so I can put my energy into spiritual things rather than ambitious goals. After many years my mustard seed of faith has grown and I am doing and seeing amazing things that give me deep peace and satisfaction. Meanwhile those who forsook their character for position have a few more dollars than me and a bad conscience. Not worth it. When they do something to cheat me I log it incase I need to defend myself but it doesn’t sit in my mind.
      Tried in the fire on the path
      Compacted with pressure from all directions
      The pain wouldn’t go
      So I let it flow
      And learned its lesson

  • http://www.growing4life.net/ Leslie A

    This is a great list! I am going to examine my own life and then pass this post along to my husband. While he is legitimately a leader (as the owner of a company), I believe any woman who is a mother is automatically a leader in her family and can use this list, as well.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      YES! So true, Leslie. I was just thinking the same thing. Imagine teaching  this to our children through our leadership example!

  • http://www.buckleadership.wordpress.com/ Justin Buck

    I struggle with No. 2. My most valuable resource is time and I often get stuck complaining about a lack of time rather than maximizing what time I have. As interesting as Lincoln’s story is the meandering journey to a successful Union General-in-Chief. How exasperating it must have been!

  • http://twitter.com/HodgsonAlison Alison Hodgson

    Great post. Regarding #3, so often leaders to give lip service to this. “I take full responsibility” means nothing. I’ve seen this in personal encounters as well as with national leaders, and it really turns me off. Taking responsibility means actually bearing the cost.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Well said Alison, the concept of consequences seems to be a fading reality for many ineffective leaders….

  • ChadNelson34

    I dig both leadership and history so obviously loved the post.  I read the first four and thought “Man do I know people like this!”.  Then I read number five and it was my Nathan-to-David moment.  I’ve been guilty of being critical without being confidential and arrogantly dismissive instead of humbly supportive.  Thanks again for your ministry and generosity.  Have a great weekend!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Gotta love those Nathan-to-David moments. :)

  • @ridedaynnight

    I often find excuses to not move forward. Thank you for the motivation and challenge to tighten the rienda a move forward. I want to copy your 5 don’ts and put beside them dos.

  • http://twitter.com/KThompsonSings Kathleen Thompson

    Thanks so much for this post.  For a long time in my career I struggled with #1.  As I gained experience, I saw that most often some action was better than no action, even if I wasn’t sure it was the right one.  It is easier to steer a ship that is already underway; thus a course correction is easier when you’re moving.  I also found that when I focused on listening to and caring for those whom I led, they were more likely to follow.  When I started us in a direction, together we could determine if we needed to change course.  It has made a huge difference in my effectiveness as a leader.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great comment Kathleen. I think many leaders slip into the trap of #1 – as they wait for more information or data to surface toward a specific decision. I like how the military trains up its leaders to make imperfect decisions with less than 70% of the facts….

  • http://twitter.com/KThompsonSings Kathleen Thompson

    Thanks so much for this post.  For a long time in my career I struggled with #1.  As I gained experience, I saw that most often some action was better than no action, even if I wasn’t sure it was the right one.  It is easier to steer a ship that is already underway; thus a course correction is easier when you’re moving.  I also found that when I focused on listening to and caring for those whom I led, they were more likely to follow.  When I started us in a direction, together we could determine if we needed to change course.  It has made a huge difference in my effectiveness as a leader.

  • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

    If memory serves me right, General McClellan was the general who put Col. Shaw’s troops into labor in the movie Glory. He was portrayed as arrogant and lavish. Shaw appealed to his political allies in Washington to get McClellan to put the first black regiment into battle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnturner313 John Turner

    Great list! I think avoiding those six flaws would put even a mediocre leader in a much better light. I agree that #1 should be #1…that is the trait I find most frustrating in bad leaders.   Michael talks about this in one of the Platform U videos, where he says “Perfection is the mother of procrastination.”  A true leader leads, he doesn’t plan to lead. #2 reminds me of the “3 C Rule” from the Dale Carnegie Course:  “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.”

  • kevin

    Wow! One of the best blogs I have read on your site.  Very different than the numerous other “Qualities of a Great Leader” articles/books I have read in the past. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Kevin.

  • http://www.williamshaker.com/ William Shaker

    A lot of what you discuss has to do with emotional intelligence. A great resource I picked up last year was a great book called “Emotional Intelligence 2.0. This is a great read for anyone in all walks of life.

    Great post Michael!

  • John Richardson

    While I can relate to all five, number one is the toughest for me. In 2013, there are just too many choices. Give me three, I can make up my mind. Give me a hundred and I’m totally lost. It’s getting to three, where decisions are made, that is the real challenge. That is where wise council and good mentors come in. 

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill


      I am right there with you! That has been one of my largest challenges to narrow what I want to focus my attention on. It has taken me YEARS to realize that I can’t do everything, and by not narrowing I am sabotaging my efforts. Blah!

  • Carolyn Mance

    This is such an insightful post Michael.  I am guilty of  all of the above.  I don’t trust myself and I  listen to too many people and the time it takes to do so, I could have won a battle or two.  

    I do feel totally inadequate for the job I am to perform, (writing).   In the end though, I  really need to realize the responsibility I have, (in my case to God) and pick the strategy and run into battle with my sword held high.  Thanks for the reminder that it starts with humility to the leader(s) above me.

    (Interesting that yesterday, I bowed my head after reading Daniel 7 after some information I researched on the book of Enoch and God parted the red sea.)

    Thank you, thank you for this post,  So sorry to learn about your home being hit by a storm, just goes to show that your enemy wants to discourage you for all the good you are doing on behalf of the Lord of the angel armies!  

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I think many of us struggle with feelings of inadequacy. It can be a beast! But I love reading the image of “running into battle with sword held high.” Keep writing, Carolyn. You can do this!

  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    McClellan was the antithesis of leadership.

    He was self-interested, generally lazy, incompetent, and indecisive. Of course, that is easy for me to say 150 years later, but history shows that is true.

    Thanks for posting this Michael. I think seeing the exact opposite of good leadership in those five traits is really helpful.

    Jim Rohn used to talk about reading the good and the bad. He said you need a book on Ghandi and a book on Hitler. I think that is true. The Bible is written exactly the way. Do like Job, not like David. Do like Moses did here but not there. Be like young Solomon, not like middle-aged Solomon. Be like John, not like Peter (in Jesus’ last hours that is). And so on.

    I struggle with #2 and #5. 

    Whether it was budget, staff, or the right technology, I often complained about the lack of them. It was demoralizing to my team. Stupid!

    I never engaged in outright insubordination, but I certainly have passive-aggressively told my team why the CEO’s plan would not work and not given it my all to make it successful. We never engaged in disagree-agree. We usually listened to bad ideas, then sabotaged them, rather then go through a knock-down, drag-out fight over the best way to do something, and then agree to choose one way and all come together to make it work. Also stupid!

    Lessons learned…

    • Hills143

      Great point about #5.
      I had read it but not gotten it. I thought “I’m not insubordinate”. But I do grumble about leadership more than I help leaders improve. I did confront a leader recently about an inadvertent message she sent recently and she took it well and looked to learn from it even though she could have stood behind that it was unintentional and a result of neither if us knowing what was going on and having the full picture.
      This is something I need to recall (the successful feedback) the next time I want to grumble about leadership.

      • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

        Good stuff! 

        Glad that she took it that way. If she sent to you, it is her responsibility to explain things so that you don’t take it the wrong way. She must give you the full picture or not send the message. 

        Sounds like a good leader to take your critique that way.

    • http://www.toodarnhappy.com/ Kim Hall

      I would add another must-have book to your list, one that Michael reviewed and gave away this past summer: Love Works, by Joel Manby. Michael wrote: Love Works is a practical how-to guide for anyone who wants to lead with love at work. Whether you lead a small business, a department, a large company, or a non-profit ministry, this book is for you.

      He was giving away copies, and I won one for my husband, who was heading into a hornet’s nest of a new supervisory position. The principles and ideas in the book have been invaluable, and the changes that have occurred have been nothing short of miraculous. 

      Here is the link to the post: 

      • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

        Thanks Kim!

        I have listened quite a bit to Joel and his book is on my to-read list.

  • http://www.toodarnhappy.com/ Kim Hall

    History provides such a wealth of timeless lessons, and thanks for sharing these gleaned from those great books. I would say that #1 has been my biggest issue. It’s that fear that has kept me on the sidelines in the past, always revving the engine, but never quite zooming into the traffic for the long run. 
    #2 is always a great crutch for #1, too. “If I only had missing resource x, then I could take action, be a better leader, etc.”A great question to conquer both points and to help move ourselves to action is one I heard long ago: What has to happen so that x (desired goal/action occurs)? That gets us into a curious mindset/problem solving mode, and helps us move forward towards possibilities.
    I am reminded of that crucial moment on Apollo 13 when the oxygen tanks failed and the astronauts lives were in grave danger. Mission Control had to ask the question, “What has to happen to get everyone safely back to earth?” to help find doable solutions quickly with extremely limited resources.

    Always a delight reading your posts, Michael, as they not only provide useful information, but also provide great food for thought and conversation as well!

    • Hills143

      Great thoughts Kim. It reminds me of David Allen’s book “getting hints done”. In it he has you walk through something of your choice from goal to beginning. At least that is how I would describe it. Also like building a marshmallow tower. In case you haven’t solved the marshmallow tower problem I don’t want to give away the solution. But getting to the end is a backwards thought process for most people but really makes a lot of sense.
      Start by figuring out what you want to be the result so you know when you have finished what you want to do.

      • http://www.toodarnhappy.com/ Kim Hall

        I have David Allen’s book, but have never finished it. Now you have piqued my curiosity and I will be looking into that. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Kerry M.

    It’s so helpful to have  a practical list  of “pitfalls to avoid” along with all of our lofty lists for reaching goals. Thanks, Michael.

  • Jason Fancy

    I find character studies such as this are very helpful in evaluating myself and others.  The observations you make here are insightful, and my own experience has proven them true. We have had several leadership changes recently at the company where I work, and the strengths and weaknesses become apparent quickly.
    Michael, do you think there is a good way to encourage character building to overcome these types of flaws, without offending the person you are trying to help? I have several people in my life that are negative, but very touchy to input. Beyond modelling a positive attitude and integrity, what would you suggest?

  • Bob Clanton

    Excellent points. I have not read the book but now feel it must be on my leadership reading list. Point number 1 is a big one. With so many whistles , buzzers, and options it seems the upgrades are endless and the effort to lay out the best possible is a constant thrilling challenge.

    A similar story to the Lincoln-McClellan one is that of the contrast in the Bible between Saul and David. Saul degenerated to being unable to attack, while David was much the opposite. Comes down to decisiveness.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      I think the David/Saul story in the Bible is a great leadership study. Have you ever read—A Tale of Three Kings? AWESOME!

  • http://twitter.com/LisaColonDelay Lisa Colón DeLay

    The study of what makes a good leader is so fascinating. We all have areas in which we lead…yet with all the leaders out there it is the rare leader who has both success and consistency.

    The weaknesses mentioned all appear to be not just poor training …but unattended matters of the heart. The spiritual! 

    I just started a 22 month program that combines Leadership Training (practical) with a foundation of character development/discipleship/spiritual formation. (MA in Christian Leadership at Evangelical Seminary. Distance learning + 10 on-campus weekends). It certainly is a necessary combination. 

    I keep wondering why leadership programs (other than mine) don’t include this training at the core. But, imagine if more did? It’s heartbreaking really.

  • Pingback: Like Lincoln or McClellan? | Dwayne Baptist Presents Leaderclip()

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    Great post and good points, Michael.  I’ve got to say that as one who was in a cult as a child, and who studied cult leaders in college, that if you look closely at those who abuse power, they are likely falling into at least three of the five categories you posted above.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Insightful and sobering, Dan. Thanks for sharing your unique perspective.

  • Jorgeveitia

    Thank you for the concise post, as I get three programs off the ground, these pointers really help in rallying troops and leadership behind one vision.

  • http://twitter.com/jasonenorris jason e norris

    Michael, this is a thought-provoking post. I’m especially intrigued by “weakness” number one. Is hesitating to act always a sign of weakness? Perhaps, indeed, it was in McClellan’s case, but often leaders feel like they must “be decisive” and “do something even if it’s wrong.”  Maybe that first item on the list could be a little more nuanced depending on the choices a leader has in a particular situation. Sometimes deciding quickly is simply being rash, not carefully considering the longer-term consequences of actions.

  • http://www.AskJeremyJones.com/ Jeremy C. Jones

    Wow great post Michael. I think these lessons apply yo not only leadership but every area of pur life. Imagine how much better society would be if more people took responsibility for their actions and reduce complaining.

  • Jenifer

    Thank you for this post. It was an eye opener and I believe it could help a lot of people in leadership particularly mothers. Being a good mother requires leadership and many times being empathetic and busy will cause a mother to let her guard down and produce character flaws in her children. I’m praying today that I won’t let me guard down anymore because of being busy, although I know this is going to be hard with seven children.

  • http://christopherwesley.org/ Christopher Wesley

    Great post Michael.  I tend to have problems with self righteousness.  It comes when I feel like I’m losing control over the situation.  What I’ve done to catch myself is have people call me out.  I don’t want to be a judgmental leader.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Love your honestly, Christopher. Losing control in a situation tends to bring out the worst in me … all my flaws bubble to the surface. And I have more than a few. :) Having truth-tellers around you is so wise!

  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    “Hesitating to Take Definitive Action” is probably my chief leadership flaw. Afraid of making a mistake, I hold back, telling myself I’ll think about it some more. Then I end up stuck in a circle pattern, never really doing anything. In many cases, the fall-out from inaction is more painful than making a mistake. The good news is those hard lessons have now become a great motivator for decisiveness!

  • http://karlsakas.com/ Karl Sakas

    Growing up, my dad often shared a mantra from his 20 years in the Army: “Leaders eat last.” Contrary to General McClellan living like royalty, leaders need to take care of their people first, rather than push their way to the head of the line. http://karlsakas.com/leaders-eat-last/

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      It’s a great mantra to live by Karl. Our responsibility as a leader is to ensure the job gets done and our team is taken care of. 

  • http://twitter.com/ReachKeep Mike Holmes

    I wish you would quit writing blogs. Couldn’t you go sit in retirement, take long walks or even fly a kite. I hate it when you write about me with such accuracy.

  • http://twitter.com/ReachKeep Mike Holmes

    I wish you would quit writing blogs. Couldn’t you go sit in retirement, take long walks or even fly a kite. I hate it when you write about me with such accuracy.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Mike, know that you’re not alone. I think he follows me around and picks on my bad traits as well (-;

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt


  • http://twitter.com/mikehollandatbh Mike Holland

    Great post Michael!  Loved this book and refer to it often with the executives I coach.  As I read you advice in the post, Seth Godin’s mantra from Poke the Box was ringing in my head. . . just ship it.  

  • http://twitter.com/JohnHarris3 John Harris

    I’m currently reading volume two of Shelby Foote’s Civil War trilogy. What strikes me about McClellan is his fear of failure. I think he never moved forward in a major battle against Lee because he feared his great reputation would be ruined if he failed.

    To be fair to him, the troops loved and adored him. They were shocked and saddened when he was relieved of his leadership duties the first time. (Lincoln brought him back to lead all the troops but was dumped again.) And, Pinkerton security gave McClellan bad information about the size of Lee’s troops, greatly overestimating them. But, Lee also knew he was greatly outnumbered but made the best of it anyway, winning numerous battles in the first two years.

    • http://twitter.com/JohnHarris3 John Harris

      One other point: Lee greatly admired McClellan. He was asked if there was one person he did not want to face, he said it was McClellan. Strange but McClellan was very good as a strategic general. He just failed on every other point of leadership!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I’ve read Foot’e trilogy as well. It is really excellent.

  • http://championforgod.com/ Jason Hoover

    Just a couple of years ago, #2 was a major crutch and ultimate excuse for me to not work on my dreams. After years of doing so I finally realized that this mentality would never advance my life.  Though I still never have all the resources I WANT, I now know that with God, I always have the resources I NEED. 

    Thanks Michael for a perfect and direct post as always.

  • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

    This post caught my attention and reminded me of a scene from “Band of Brothers.” During the Battle of the Bulge, a platoon was “led” by a lieutenant who couldn’t make decisions.

    “It wasn’t that he was a bad leader because he made bad decisions…he was a bad leader because he made no decisions.”

    In leading and serving our artist community, I’m reminded that people are generally very gracious with an occasional bad decision, especially when I own it.

    The real danger is making no decisions.

    Great post Michael…thanks again!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      That’s so telling Joey. Sometimes it’s shocking how not making a choice reflects on you as a leader. 

      • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

         Thanks Joe…you know, I find I experience the most anxiety and lack of peace when I waffle in making a decision.

        When I decide, the peace comes.

        Funny how that works. Maybe it’s God’s way of propelling us forward in the journey?

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

          Most likely. He has a way of doing things like that. 

          Now we just need to get better at making the action choices that will get us there.

  • http://twitter.com/RyanSearch Dan Ryan

    You make many great points in this post and the hesitation to take action is one I have personally experience most in my personal and consulting career.

    Many leaders are afraid to take action because it might have a negative implication on one or two in the group.  What then happens is that the group becomes less productive because they see there is no accountability or recourse.

    Conflict is inevitable and it is productive when handled correctly.

    Leaders don’t avoid conflict-they use it effectively, but not as a club.

    Dan Ryan

  • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

     For me, it would be number one – hesitating to take action. I think the thing that helps me the most is to surround myself with friends and mentors who are decisive.

    • Jim Martin

      Aaron, great idea about surrounding yourself with friends/mentors who are decisive.  

  • Ja’h

    Thank you. :)

  • Ricardowilliams

    Great post and great topic.
    I’ve become more fascinated with leadership over the years. I never considered myself a leader, but when I look back at the things I’ve accomplished, I’ve accomplished them in leadership roles. Yet I still don’t see myself as a leader.
     The biggest obstacle to my leadership skills is that I’m afraid I will engage in #5 Acts of insubordination.
    I see the frustrations of employees as leaders refuse to act quickly to remove obstacles that affect their productivity. I’ve solved three major issues affecting productivity and moral in my workplace, but although it has helped the employees and the organization, I find myself trying to clean up my image as being the bad guy.

  • Denise_Brouillette

    Brilliant post.  What I have noticed over the years as a leadership consultant is how many leaders at the vice president level have some or all of McClellan’s flaws, yet the CEO doesn’t remove them. And while they may be bringing some value (at least to the CEO), the damage to the morale and ultimately to the output and functioning of the organization is diminished, often significantly.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I have witnessed this as well. It really can negatively impact the culture—and the CEO’s reputation.

  • Jwsaunders1963

    Being a leader has turned me into a person I don’t like. Always sharp towards those under me because of lack of conscientious efforts. Anxieties are to high.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Sorry to hear that. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate your leadership style or role?

  • Steve Hawkins

    Thanks for the post Michael. I’m definitely guilty of #1. It’s real easy to worry about what others may think about your ideas and do nothing rather than moving forward on them despite the group think. But it’s amazing what could happen when you find the courage, step out, and take action.

    If a company truly wants to be successful and innovative, they should instill within their culture the chance to make wise mistakes. By being allowed to try new things and make mistakes in a non-threatening atmosphere–just like when we were kids asking questions, banging our knees, and learning through those experiences–amazing things could happen within the corporate walls.

    • Jim Martin

      Steve- really like your second paragraph regarding a culture  where one has the opportunity to learn from mistakes.

  • Jille

    Great article in reflection of a great book. I especially liked your ideas on a lack of resources, as often that feels like my greatest obstacle. Creativity, I’ve found, though is the way over the hurdle.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Mine too Jille. How do you use creativity to overcome the hurdle? By finding creative ways to use what you have or by some other means?

  • http://twitter.com/quirkycity Heather C Button

    I am guilty of #1. But I find the real difficulty in balancing acting on something versus knowing when someone is trying to get me to act on something because they can’t / won’t do it themselves. I find sometimes the easy way out (in my job in the construction industry) ends up being go to person. Sometimes they legitimately need a decision, and sometimes, they didn’t need to both asking. It’s a learning experience just knowing which are the right topics to act on something quickly.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      I’ve done this too.   I realize that when I’m not there, folks handle most issues themselves and handle them well.  

      Of course, inaccessibility is not always the best solution.   When they do ask questions that could have been answered themselves, I’ve learned to respond to their question with the question they should have asked themselves.  

      Most competent team members catch on and learn that they can ask the same question before coming to me … and eventually they do.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    It’s great that we can learn from those who’ve come before us. Especially when it reveals our own flaws. I find myself falling into the trap of complaining about a lack of resources/opportunities. This is a great reminder to stop doing that. 

  • G. Grace Small

    Very good post!

  • Shules Hersh

    Number 1 is a killer for me. I am constantly tweaking and perfecting my product or team until, by the time I am satisfied we are ready for launch, the momentum has been lost. This could be my Achilles heel. 
    I say “could be.” 2013 has already been a major turnaround and a year of massive action. The solution I found to the perpetual perfecting problem is embarrassingly simple. Stop waiting. Start rolling. —It is not trite. It is effective. Some things are better tweaked on the fly anyway. 

    My new rule of thumb: If it’s gone through three improved iterations since inception, launch it or lose it and move on.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Love that rule of thumb!  It’s obviously a product of experience.

  • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ jbledsoejr

    Wow, you have challenged me with this post.  #1 & #2 have been problems for me (“once I have, or know this, I can move forward…if I had this, then I wouldn’t be here”).

    I am working on these flaws, but sometimes reminders and looks in the mirror help to not get complacent or fall back.  Thanks Michael for another great post!

    • Jim Martin

      I once said to a person regarding a particular challenge “I just not ready yet.”  He then asked “What would it look like to be ready?”  I had no answer.  Yes, I relate to #1

  • Russ

    Great post, THANKS! Numbers 1 and two were like a mirror in my face. I’m a pastor of a church of roughly 150 in attendance and I procrastinate using those two excuses often. Not anymore.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      What a courageous response, Russ!  You and the people you lead will be better for it!

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  • Isokarifrancis

    This is a timely reminder for action to over-accommodating leaders.  Good work.  Insightful.

  • Russel Heron

    Launch a decisive attack.

    Figure out how to use the
    resources at hand.

    Take responsibility.

    Live frugally.

    Honour those in leadership over

  • Matt

    great list

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  • Tomich1040

    Trust is the #1 in any relationship;   professional & personal. – I believe once trust is seen  then so much can be built on that and reinforces the strength of any team !!  

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      True, that trust is a priority.  It’s also a privilege.  It takes time to earn it, but no time to lose it.

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  • http://twitter.com/ScribeLifeGames Corey and Christina

    I loved that book, but have yet to see the movie. One question I have is regarding number 5. It is easy to talk about subordination, but most leaders are independent thinkers and cannot blindly follow orders. Though in the book as in real life, McClellan was toxic, but primarily because he was indirect. If he genuinely didn’t believe in the course of action Lincoln was taking, he was right not to follow it. He may have followed through in the wrong ways, but a real leader will not take a path he doesn’t believe in as McClellan did not.

     It’s easy to know today that Lincoln was in the right, but it may not have been at the time. This is usually true of all historical events – hindsight is 20/20. 

    When do you feel it’s appropriate to be subordinate and when is it appropriate to stand for the path you believe is right?

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    If I’m being honest there have been times when I was guilt of some of these flaws. This is a great guide that leaders should use, will have to read the book. 

    • Jim Martin

      You are right Kimanzi, this is a great guide.  I also need to read this book.  I have heard so many good things about Goodwin’s book.

  • Chery Schmidt

    Great Post Michael. You have done a Great job with your list. #1 is definitely something I have been trying to improve on, although I am sure I have been guilty of all of them at some point. Thanks for sharing Chery :)

    • Jim Martin

      Chery as soon as I read #1, I immediately thought of a situation in my own life that mirrors this.  Like you I have been working on this.

  • Melanie

    As a voluntary leader of a group of volunteers in women’s ministry, my leadership flaw may be the opposite of #1 in that I have a big vision, cast it and even accomplish tasks toward the vision. Then hours later…usually just before I fall asleep…I lie upon my pillow scared and thinking, “What did I just do?” 

  • http://sevensentences.com/ Geoff Talbot

    This is a fascinating post, thanks for sharing Michael,

    I wonder what leadership skills McClellan possessed to get him to such a high position in the first place. Was he fast talker, a good networker, a good salesman?He must have had something other than his character flaws? I guess I am asking could he have been a good leader?

    I think that being prideful is worse than being flawed, because pride stops us acknowledging our humanity and seeing our weaknesses for what they are?

    What were Lincolns flaws and how did he deal with them?

    Geoff Talbot
    Blogging & Commenting in only Seven Sentences

  • Patsheveland

    Awesome post Michael!  I think we have all seen these traits in leaders at one time or another and have to admit that there have been times when I have fallen into some of these behaviors…a bit humbling to see oneself in your descriptions to say the least…

  • Leil Lowndes

    Michael, I appreciate your explorations, insight and wisdom. I have subscribed to a number of newsletters and unsubscribed after a few issues. Yours is one I have and intend to stay with. Keep up the fine work. (I know you will–you couldn’t do otherwise.)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your words, Leil.

  • http://www.NateAnglin.com/ Nate Anglin

    I’ll play the devils advocate and say are we leaders if we inherit any of these traits? Its the opposite of these that defines a true leader and if one isn’t present we become a follower. 

  • Theedgeofthewedge

    A superb article, Michael. You highlight almost obvious “bad” leadership traits I have known and fall into a times. Thank you for this article and all the others that really contribute to my awareness. Paul

  • http://sukofamily.org/ Caleb

    Complaining about a lack of resources seems huge in my area of work. Churches and church leaders are always discouraged because they don’t have the facility they need or the funds to maintain the facility they have. They also complain about the lack of qualified church leaders and volunteers. 

    Nevertheless as I look back in church history it seems that those who had the least often accomplished the most! There is something freeing when we stop worrying about what we don’t have and start focusing on what we do have and how we can utilize that more effectively.

    Thanks for the warning and great reminder Michael.

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  • http://www.spencermcdonald.net/ Spencer McDonald

    An excellent reminder to be and engaged, positive leader. 

    I forward this onto my team. At times I see, hear, and feel these weaknesses popping through in morning meetings or as thing get tough. 

    Great lessons we can take and apply. 

  • Ricardowilliams

    I see leadership as managing a balloon with many holes. So many of us try to lead without communicating with those we are leading so we miss the solutions to the problems. To make matters worse we take action against those who serve us and we create more holes in the balloon. As a leader I put my focus on the areas that are affecting productivity of those who are serving me.
    Now with this analogy, Could President Lincoln have been the problem?

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  • http://www.alansalls.com/ Alan Salls

    What a great post.  The five points really make you think.  For me, it’s thinking about the past, where I was a leader in a couple of former positions in private industry, although that’s not the case anymore.  I can surely see myself failing on at least 2, maybe 3 of those 5 points.  And in looking back, I can now see why and how I failed.  I seriously doubt if anyone could say they do a perfect job in five of the five. There is something to be learned here for everyone.  Thanks, Michael!

  • Fabico66

    I would add


    Giving an instruction and expecting it will happen and
    not confirming it actually did And even worst telling everybody else it is
    happening without  actually checking the

  • http://twitter.com/cathywrites4U Cathywrites

    Ouch.  I found some of of myself in McClellan.  I clipped this article to Evernote and I am going to use it to launch an interior Civil War against those elements.  Thanks.

    • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

      We all engage in an interior Civil War.  An interior coup de` dat` may be the best approach. Just saying. :-D 

  • Kristen

    This was a great post Michael, thank you.  Profound and simple enough I read it out loud to my older kids and we discussed it together :)

  • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

    I’m currently writing a post that deep dives into problem number one on this list.  It is my personal opinion that a lack of vision, courage, and self awareness contributes to this problem, as clearly General McClellan had.  His vision was to enjoy his position as the commander in chief and not really to lead his army to victory.

  • Alan E Meyers

    Great post Michael,
    My thought is that Lincoln showed a lack of leadership in waiting so long to replace McClellan and what about expect what you inspect.

    Just a thought,
    Alan Meyers

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s a valid point.

  • Smarkham8888

    Michael, great post and perfect timing as we get ready to watch the Super Bowl. I see times in my daily life where I move in and out of all five of your listed leadership dysfunctions. “The team we are part of today is the one we will win with, not “the super team of tomorrow.” Removing my “I know better than the boss” pride is something that God and I have to discuss almost everyday. Being present and humbly walking “among his troops” is the number one King David leadership lesson I have to relearn again and again. Thanks, Steve

  • http://PrayersToGod.org/ Hope4Everyone

    Lincoln was a great movie. You wonder how much bad blood must have to run through the veins of our current elected officials for them to not want to work together. The Team of Rivals book and the 5 flaws you jotted down are still 100% relevant today. History does repeat itself.

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  • http://twitter.com/joshuamtaylor Joshua Taylor

    Wow, incredible post. Definitely hit home. Thank you for this — I’ll definitely keep this with me.

  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad Puckett

    I need to read the book you mentioned here.  McClellan sounds all too much like many of the political class of our day (regardless of party).

    Lincoln, on the other hand, was magnanimous as well as patient.  He gave McClellan more than enough opportunity to prove himself.

    As you said, there are never enough resources.  You simply push through with what you have available to you.

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    This is a fantastic post! During my career I’ve reported directly to 8 different CEOs – witnessing first hand each of the traits you’ve listed. The worst of these leaders completely rejected any sense of accountability to the board, employees or customers – he obviously didn’t last long. The most common flaw I’ve noticed is the first one you listed – inaction is DEFINITELY an action.

  • Margaret Feinberg

    Micahel, thanks for challenging me with post today! 

  • Jae Riley

    Great post.

  • http://leadright.wordpress.com/ Brent Dumler

    Wow, all of these unfortunately occur in the Church too.  I mostly appreciated your statement, “The best safeguard is self-awareness.”  This is very true, but for many pastors is almost impossible without a strong accountability system.

  • http://www.leavingconformitycoaching.com/ Randy Crane

    #1 and #2 have been a struggle for me, though less so now. I still have the inclination to both, and they are my default, but I am learning to intentionally choose to take action with the resources I have. It really is true that if you’re following the path you were designed for, the additional resources come as definite action is taken with what you have.

  • http://www.caminomyway.com/ Randall St Germain

    Another excellent post. I’m always trying to improve not only my writing, but the way I’m able to lead for future endeavors. I know I have strengths but also, I’m aware of my weaknesses. This post makes me stop and think about an important self reflection. Thanks again, Michael.

  • http://www.liveyourwhy.net/ Terry Hadaway

    Thanks, Michael. I’ve worked in two organizations where I had the privilege(?) of working for weak leaders. Those opportunities made me far more aware of my own leadership tendencies and flaws. It would be a tragedy to work for weak leaders and then become one of them.

    I have complained about a lack of resources (especially in ministry positions) and have shared my opinions freely which, in an autocratic organization, were inaccurately defined as insubordination. I concluded that leaders who demand allegiance often do so because they aren’t competent enough to earn it.

  • http://www.borntwolead.com/ TJ Trent


    Like Lincoln I have a lot of patience with my Junior leaders and Soldiers.  Perhaps too much patience in some instances.  I also (sometimes) find myself complaining about resources when I should be out fighting for them.

    On another note I found your number one point very interesting.  It reminded me of Stephen Ambrose’s one volume on IKE.  Many felt Eisenhower failed to take definitive action during early on during the civil rights crisis of his time.  Thoughts?

  • http://twitter.com/EFTFreedom Ben Ross

    Interesting because those exact same things can be used in life in general. Take definate action, take responsibility, don’t complain etc… and not just in leadership.

    Thankyou for the article.

  • David Beth-El

    Coming from Australia, I don’t know a lot about Lincoln but it was a fascinating read; thank you.
    I was convicted by #5. I sometimes struggle working for someone 23 years my junior. Having the advantage of experience can sometimes be a disadvantage when it comes to submitting to authority. As pride enters in, servanthood goes out the door.

  • Eldon Carvey

    McClellan epitomized at least one other fatal leadership flaw, namely a demonstrable ambivalence concerning the very reasons for going to war in the first place. This speaks to
    the central importance of every leader possessing genuine passion for the mission of their organization, as well as the capacity & willingness to share this passion with their associates. 

    • Jim Martin

      Good observation Eldon.  You make a good point.  If a leader is not passionate about the mission of an organization,  it really does impact his/her associates.

  • Wpgunapala

     like this.it is a eye opener for future leaders.

  • Wp.gunapala

    it is a lesson for org heads.

  • Roband06

    I really enjoyed this post. I’m a history buff and I love discussing any kind of war. Most movies and books spend a lot of time talking about how glorious this war was. I watched a documentary talking General McClellan. The situation with him was that he wasn’t qualified for the job to begin with. As you stated, that was a flaw on President Lincoln’s part. I remember correctly, he did not earn his position, he was appointed to that position based on his political affiliation. He did not have a resume of great leadership to prove himself.

  • Isaac_ak

    this is a hidden secret,been divulge, and if its critical look into you ll discover that majority of people try to put blame when they fail,but this ave made me understand that planing ,focus is the answer.

  • http://www.pauljolicoeur.com/ Paul Jolicoeur

    We all have flaws in the way we lead others. What is important is doing what we can to identify them and moving to action to strengthen those areas. One way to help identify them is to put people around you that will speak honestly to you.

  • Jenniferjfonseca

    Guilty. I am overcoming allowing perfection to be the obstacle of my progress.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      You are not alone! I think we need a support group.

  • Tracey L. Moore

    Very interesting. I saw the movie, Lincoln, so this drew me in.  As far as my weakness as a leader goes, right now, I am just leading myself at the moment! I just started a homebased business. My main leadership flaw is failure to take definitive action in a timely fashion. I am one of those people that has to research everything thoroughly before I act. Sometimes you need to go with your gut. Research can be a form of procrastination. I have asked God to help me with that one.  I am much better than I used to be, but not where I need to be. I will keep what you shared in mind as I go forward. Thanks again for a very pertinent post.
    Tracey L. Moore
    Author of the upcoming book, Oasis For My Soul: Poems and Inspirational Writings for Spiritual and Personal Growth

  • 1rickcraig

    Lot like surfing we learn how to ride each wave as we are riding it! And the more waves we ride the better we get at ridding the Big Waves! Preparation, Practice, and winging the rest may help us ride the Big Waves eventually!

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  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    Thanks, Colin. I appreciate your interest. But, unfortunately, I don’t have the bandwidth for any additional writing. All the best.

  • Momasita

    Michael, great job capturing important make or break leadership action! I am grateful my first mentor as a young supervisor modeled servant leadership. He would do the most humble, lowly tasks and refused to let us refer to him as ‘boss’. His example made me such a better leader today.

    When I observe others doing #4 Abusing privileges of leadership, it makes me want to do #5. What helps me hold my tongue is knowing such negativity is a huge moral killer.

  • Hunter Hodge

    Great post! I absolutely love history (it’s my favorit subject!) because there is so much to learn. Not only about different people, cultures, and understanding why the world is the way it is today, but also to learn about invaluable leadership, business, and life principles. 

    You can also gain a greater appreciation for seeing the hand of God in everything. It’s truly an amazing experience to study history as a story to learn from rather than facts to recite. 

  • Edrin Williams

    Great post, Michael! I’d definitely fall into category #1.  I’m a learner, and when it comes to leadership or life, in general, I often hesitate to move forward because I feel the need to learn more first.  I don’t feel the need to know everything about a situation, but I do feel the need to know “more,” which is very subjective – a requirement that’s nearly impossible to meet.  

    I’ve recently begun to share this truth with a team of buddies with whom I share life and ministry, and I’ve asked them to help keep me accountable.  They give nudges and encouragement regularly.  Internally, I’m remaining aware of my hesitation and starting to press forward in spite of it.  It’s courage, in my opinion.  The feeling has not gone away, but I’m forcing myself to take the next step anyhow! 

  • http://www.projectmanagerpad.com/ Pmpad

    Mike, you make great points here. 
    Personally, I consider number #3 as the most detrimental for a team and the top offender to correct.I am not a CEO trainer, I just have sound experience as senior project manager for large projects in heavy industry. And I’ve learned over years that relationships can determine the outcome of a project. Likewise, a persistent lack of trust and finger pointing, in a vicious circle, is going to spread and turn a work environment into a hell.

  • Idrissi Khalid

    I disagree with No 5…a good leader should have the ability to kindly share his views with his boss even when they are contradicting him…it is only after that that he can implemente what was finally decided…

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  • Joe Wathika

    Wonderful message Michael. Thank You for sharing your wisdom I am a junior in High School and I have learned so much from you. The podcast on focusing on your strengths is my favorite. Quick question; Does Thomas Nelson offer scholarships to high school students?. Thank You. Looking forward  to your next podcast.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your kind words.

      No, I’m afraid Thomas Nelson doesn’t offer scholarships. It does a lot of work with various charities and causes but this is currently not a focus.
      Thanks again.

  • Gabriel Germain

    Thanks for this article. I’m still a young graphic designer, but in the agency I work in, my leader had put me in a leadership position as well. We work as a team.

    For me 1,2 and 5 are the most relevant in my situation. I have to learn from this article.
    But, one thing I always knew. Arrogance and pride can’t exist in a company. Only solutions and teamwork are essentials.

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  • http://joewickman.com/ Joe Wickman

    This just affirms my belief that the best solution to most problems is “swift and blinding violence”. It may be the right decision every time, but at least it’s a decision.
    haha – Just kidding of course.
    But seriously, great post!

  • Phil Maguire

    Well, as you asked, I did used to suffer from number 1. But I decided to adapt the Ready-Fire-Aim approach and it is working much better because I am getting early feedback about whether a direction is worth traveling. I am still a rubbish leader so I would suggest that your list is incomplete. I would guess that it is because I really had no burning desire to be a leader, it just seemed to be the only way to get things done. I have since discovered Derek Sivers TED talk on being a better follower and decided to adapt the Leading-by-Serving approach. After all, it is only 2,000 years old

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.gregory.90226 Richard Gregory

    Wonderful message.

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  • southernwonder

    There is considerable wisdom presented here my Mr. Hyatt from Abe Lincoln. One I think that adds to this reservoir is Ronal Reagan’s “Trust but Verify”. We know who helped us win the Cold War, right?

  • John T. Jeffery

    Critics of Gen. George B. McClellan fail to take many factors into consideration including:

    1) the failures of the civilian command and control on the highest levels to support him as agreed during the Peninsula campaign early in the war,

    2) Pinkerton’s grossly inflated intelligence estimates of enemy strength that McClellan depended on,

    3) the prosecution of the Virginia campaigns at the end of the war under Gen. Grant (1864) which vindicated what McClellan has insisted on years before (1862), and, last, but certainly not least,

    4) Gen. Lee’s own estimation of McClellan as an opponent when questioned after the war.

    The following recent article and documentation concerning the bloodiest day in American history, when Gen. McClellan was in command of the Union forces in the Battle of Antietam, adds to the evidence that the typical historical assessment of McClellan is defective.

    Gene Thorp, “In defense of McClellan at Antietam: A contrarian view” (7 SEP 2012), on The Washington Post athttp://www.washingtonpost.com/…/79a0e5cc-f131-11e1-892d… [accessed 8 FEB 2014].
    See on the “Lost Order” (Gen. Robert E. Lee’s S.O. 191), Rebel casualties and Rebel strength: Graphic “Defending McClellan: In depth” which accompanies Thorp’s article on The Washington Post athttp://www.washingtonpost.com/…/mcclellan…/index.html [accessed 8 FEB 2014].

    See also: Gene Thorp, “In defense of McClellan: A contrarian view” (2 MAR 2012), on The Washington Post athttp://www.washingtonpost.com/…/27/gIQAeSLqmR_story_2.html [accessed 8 FEB 2014].

    The arm-chair “generals” and Monday morning “commanders” among McClellan’s postwar critics continue to repeat refrains about him having the “slows”, not wanting to fight, etc. that demonstrate a failure to do objective research, and to properly assess all of the evidence.

    Warren W. Hassler’s book, General George B. McClellan: Shield of the Union (n.p.: Louisianna State University Press, 1957; reprinted 1974 by Greenwood Press), provides documentation and arguments that most Civil War historians either are ignorant of, or fail to reckon with. Available on Amazon athttp://www.amazon.com/General…/dp/B000HRZ8E4/ref=sr_1_3… [accessed 8 FEB 2014].

    See also the following:

    James M. Ridgway Jr., Little Mac: Demise of an American Hero (n.p.: Xlibris Books, 2000).

    James M. Ridgway Jr., Apprentice Killers: The War of Lincoln and Davis (n.p.: PublishAmerica, 2002).

    The McClellan Society at http://www.georgebmcclellan.com [accessed 2 JUN 2014].

    Compiled by:

    John T. Jeffery
    SFC, USA (Ret.)
    1st BN 109th INF

    Nunquam Obliviscere – Memento Semper!
    (“Never Forget – Always Remember!”)

    PAARNG (1989-2010)
    Deployed with: B 1-109th (M) INF
    Attached to: HHC 1-172nd AR, VTARNG, Task Force Saber
    Deployed to: Ramadi, Iraq (OIF, 2005-2006)

    U. S. Army (1970-1973)
    Deployed with: HMS Co, 63rd Maint BN, USARV
    Deployed to: Quang Tri & Da Nang, RVN (1971)

  • DJ William

    What an incredibly shallow understanding of the War, Lincoln, and most of all, George B. McClellan. Perhaps if you studied the topic instead of just latching on to the incredibly weak work of Kearns Goodwin, you would have written otherwise.
    Some Solid Examples of a Man Better than his Peers… in the position of US Major General 1861-1865
    1. He bested all of his opponents in terms of casualties inflicted, at minimum loss in return… GBMc inflicted more battle casualties on the Confederate Army than any other Union Leader, relative to losses suffered. Look it up… and he did it all against a healthy and audacious Bobby Lee.
    2. His AOP fought more successfully in 1862, against the strongest ANV of the entire War, than any other commander did afterward, against a greatly weakened Army of Northern Virginia. His Seven Days and Maryland Campaigns were masterpieces of force utilization & maneuver in trying circumstances. The art of leading men in combat requires putting them in position to be successful… he was the only Union General that understood that his men were precious. Dare compare Grant to Mac? Like comparing a butcher to a surgeon. Grant butchered nearly 80,000 men getting to the position in 1864 (against a much smaller enemy force) that Mac accomplished losing less than 10% as many.
    3. He was acknowledged by his prime opponent (RE Lee) as the finest Commander in the Union Army… when asked who was the Union’s ablest commander, the Old Gray Fox had no hesitation… “McClellan, by all odds!” If that’s not enough, remember that Stonewall Jackson never had any success against Mac… while he hammered and trounced and turned and befuddled Pope, Burnside, & Hooker.
    4. As an organizer and inspiration to the Army, he had no peer. He built the AOP single handed. He created the framework for all successes they experienced during the war. His men LOVED him, and they were a far better judge of his character and capabilities than the historical pretender DKG.
    Of course, you’ll certainly delete this, not to upset all the cheers from those who also are uninformed, uneducated, and downright contemptuous of a Man who so ably served his country. As to your smears of Mac as an abusive, shirking, complaining, procrastinating, insubordinate, luxuriator, well, I guess that since dueling is outlawed, and you’re a century after those who knew him personally have become nutrient for cemetery tree roots, you’re fortunate to throw smears when you do.

  • For Truth in History


    From West Point through Mexico, Europe too

    You showed your brilliance, your service was true

    When Civil War broke the peace in Sixty-One

    You pledged to serve ‘til victory’s won

    West Virginia!

    Granny Lee and others in Virginia’s North-west

    Couldn’t push you back, your maneuvers were best

    Carved out a State up there “for the Union”

    West Virginia they called it, you “Young Napoleon’

    Commander of the Army!

    Great Potomac! That Army was truly yours

    You built, taught, formed it, you shaped its Corps

    They loved their boss, their cheers shook the sky

    When on that great noble Charger! You rode by


    You landed with them on Fortress Monroe

    And marched steadily in search of foe

    Yorktown the first to fall though not

    By using siege guns, shell or shot


    From your command, your soldiers he took,

    Well Lincoln’s square beard must have shook,

    From fear he might be termed a crook,

    For stealing bishop, knight, and rook,

    From Mac!

    Did Johnston know? Uncle Joe E?

    What had young Mac, in old Virgin-ny?

    Not a hundred, not ninety, eighty? Maybe…

    Thousands less than needed for planned victory


    Crash and Thunder! Fire and Flames!

    Immortals created, now making their names

    Two Hills, a Stonewall, a Long-street if you dare

    Stand between Mac’s men and Richmond so Fair…


    That didn’t keep Mac from the Chickahominy

    And putting some grape in Old Joe’s fan-ny

    Thus causing the ‘Cause’ to switch to Lee

    Setting up a ‘Seven Days’ jam-bo-ree

    With McClellan!

    Would Lee ever have, again such a chance?

    To work ‘round the flanks, to do a Cannae dance?

    In enemy ground, Mac faced such great threat,

    His base, lines of supply, retreat and … yet…


    Trusted his officers and his Army so dear

    He exhibited calmness; he showed them no fear,

    To Fitz-John Porter on the right wing he gave

    The position and opportunity… Potomac! to save

    The Army!

    Thunder and Crash! Flame and Fire!

    Gaines Mill, Turkey Creek, the outlook was dire!

    In the forests and swamps men swore, fought and died

    If years later you asked? A Miracle they survived!

    Seven Days!

    Mac brought his men back to a Hill called Malvern

    And placed his guns high where the fields they could burn,

    Would Lee be so brash as to attack in the open?

    Over ground the gunners to see targets were a hope-in’?

    Malvern Hill!

    Just as Mac knew from that long ago Crimean day

    If infantry attacked on such ground they would pay

    In blood… and a newfound respect for brass ‘n iron

    Manned by brave gunners who stood at attention while fire-in’

    Rebel Repulse!

    Damage done, but the Potomac Army still exists!

    No way to see it but a fight with two fists!

    The Rebels they fail to cut Mac from his base

    Must find a fool General whose troops they can chase


    No sooner did Mac plan a new line of attack

    But Lincoln took more of his troops North-wards back

    To Pope! Was the thinking of Halleck, Abe agreed

    Too bad for poor Pope, hindquarters on the steed


    Lee sent old Jack on a forced flank march ‘round

    To plant his-self on that Manassas battle-ground

    Needless to say, poor old Pope was lucky not to die

    And the scared fools in Washington sent out the cry

    Bring back McClellan!

    Into Maryland he rode on that big black charger

    Through Frederick! The citizens cheered all the louder

    Towards Boonesboro up in South Mountain they went

    Fighting Longstreet and Hill, some soon heaven-sent


    Now Lee they say, wouldn’t do what seemed brash

    To back up his Army against a river? Balderdash!

    But baiting Mac to attack, on the low Sharpsburg hills

    He trusted in Jackson, Longstreet, and the Hills

    AP Hill!

    The Bloodiest Day, they called it, the wounded and the slain

    In Cornfield, by Burnside’s Bridge, Dunker Church, Bloody Lane

    The final assaults, near to broke the Rebel right wing

    But Hill came up! Harper’s march gave AP fame lasting

    Rebels retreat!

    Mr. Lincoln needed your Victory, Mac, and the Union you save

    To issue his Proclamation, Emancipating the slave

    Of course your “bodyguard” in his eyes seems too slow

    To ever catch Lee’s troops, and strike them a blow


    Repair to Trenton! Await further orders! Never a chance

    Republicans now fear you, as they feared your advance

    Never fast enough, or hard enough, easy to say

    Ensconced in a cozy room far, far away


    The hope of the Union and men of Peace first

    To knit back the country, to lay aside the worst

    To find common ground and once more be brothers

    To show mercy and fairness and end tears of mothers

    Lincoln narrowly Re-elected…

    Soldiers who wanted to vote couldn’t leave

    If officers feared Democrat votes up their sleeve

    So now Mac’s history was mostly written by the “winners”

    To smear Mac was all the rage of those spinners

    To create the myth of Lincoln Republicans being great

    They douse the truth with lies… and healthy doses of hate

    So let’s hear from those in position to know

    Their opinion of McClellan… is it high or low…?


    Now there’s a Real Man, maybe he should say!

    What Bravery meant! What mattered in the fray?

    Of his beloved Commander from that long gone day

    Of McClellan! “…There is nothing too good that I can say… ”

    “There is nothing too good that I can say of General McClellan. He was a man and a thorough soldier.” (MG Winfield S. Hancock, 1885)

    George Gordon Meade!

    War-council at night… “To fight?” he demands!

    Then refusing to budge from those turtle like stands

    With ulcers a-biting and perhaps shaking hands

    While watching Pickett’s veterans advance

    Goggle-eyed Snapping Turtle!

    You surely were a hero too, July Fourth, for a day…

    But then General Lee made his July Fifth get-away

    Soon you heard all those Washington ingrates to bray

    Such critique! From those undeserving even private’s pay!

    You unbundled your thoughts, harsh and bitter, no rhymin’

    For the officers you trust are so few, one was Lyman

    Theodore Lyman!

    Meade’s ADC, his own right hand man,

    At Cold Harbor witnessed Grant’s lack of a plan

    Slaughter! Negligence! Sam? Whittling in the van?

    And the Army Mac built is now gone, to a man…

    Cold Harbor!

    Tears well in the eyes, deep emotions unloosed

    While reporters tell lies to keep officials un-noosed

    But with memory and clarity wise Lyman deduced

    McClellan! “…the Greatest General this War has produced”

    I believe he was, both as a military man and as a manager of a country under military occupation, the greatest general this war has produced.” Theodore Lyman, Meade’s ADC, writing at Cold Harbor, 1864)

    Joe Hooker!

    Lincoln fired you while marching in Vain!

    Knew Command of that Army, the heavy strain…

    When Stanton connived for political gain…

    Better West! And Corps Command again!

    Whiskey Joe!

    Reminiscing, the old I Corps’ Fighter…

    Looking back from Lookout, with pressures lighter…

    Remembers how Mac knit the Army tighter…

    “…Too good a Man…!” McClellan!

    “McClellan was too good a man to command an army in this country.” Joe Hooker December 1863


    Robert E Lee? That old Genius in Gray,

    Whose opponents he studied, those men he deemed prey

    What of Pope? Lee suppressed (with contempt) some would say

    And Burnside? Learnt assaults bore-a heavy price to pay

    Maybe Hooker! But Stonewall took the flanking path-way!

    US Grant? Boxed by the Fox! For Forty oh-so-long-day!


    Old Marse Robert? Did he declare?

    Who faced him toughest, caused most gray hair?

    Who was the best? Now state it fair!

    “Best by All Odds! McClellan!”

    An admirer of the General, who knows the Truth that the mud-slingers attempt to conceal.

  • Bob Goss

    Definitive actions, a must to move your organization forward. Thank you for the article!

  • http://yubibillion.com/ UbongEkpo

    Thank you Michael. I’ve seen “hesitating to take definitive action ” and complaining as major issues I’ve had to deal with in past years as a leader. Currently seeing great results over the last two with the release of two books and speaking/consulting engagements doing what I love. I also think these five things would look good on a memory or reference card as leaders constantly need to keep checking on things. It takes wisdom, grace and an ever-open heart to lead successfully.

  • Cindy

    Great information. I have known bosses (I won’t call them leaders) with these character flaws. Thanks for the info.

  • Ken5206

    Great post! Finding the person with the skill sets you need may not be the answer if they will not execute the job or complete the task. Now I must ask myself which for these flaws do I have and how do I overcome them!

  • Ron Lewis-no relation

    We had the fortune of having Doris Kearns Goodwin visit our campus and lecture a few weeks ago. Great speaker!