Several times in my teaching career, I’ve asked graduate students to give me descriptions of the worst teachers they’ve had. During those same years, I’ve watched leaders, discussed leadership and read leadership books to learn characteristics of good and bad leaders. Perhaps not surprisingly, I’ve seen that some of the characteristics of bad teachers and bad leaders are the same.
1. They don’t communicate well. Sometimes they just don’t communicate; they expect others to read their minds and meet their unstated expectations. At other times, they are simply boring when they do try to communicate.
2. They make others feel dumb. They don’t miss many opportunities to point out when others are wrong. Nor do they miss a chance to show others how much they know. Eventually, no one speaks up around them—and the worst teachers and leaders are too unaware to recognize they are often the problem.
3. They’re disorganized. Maybe they’re just so busy that it’s hard to stay on top of everything, or maybe they’re just plain disorganized. Either way, they usually can’t figure out why others struggle with following their unclear—and often changing—directions.
4. They’re disconnected. Many are the students and staff members who are frustrated by teachers and leaders who are nowhere to be found. When the teacher or leader fails to build relationships, those he teaches or leads become means to an end—not people created in the image of God.
5. They’re lazy. It’s clear from their lack of passion that they lost their focus and energy years ago. They know nothing new, and their teaching/leading has not changed in decades. They may think others don’t realize they’re just “going through the motions,” but they’re kidding no one.
6. They are arrogant. You know what this trait looks like, even in Christian organizations. These teachers and leaders always talk about themselves. Any sense of humility seems to be forced; in fact, others see it as only another way to point out how good they are.
7. They’re critical. Not only do they criticize others, but even more importantly, they almost never praise others. The only time you hear from them is when they want to correct something.
8. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Some teachers don’t know their material well, and some leaders don’t know their field well. In some cases, both have been given their positions for some reason other than their know-how—and it’s obvious.
9. They don’t enjoy their work. People who spend time with them learn quickly that they have no joy in their day-to-day tasks. Their smiles are forced and their laughter is infrequent.
10. Their Christian walk is debatable. That is, some who know them best question the depth of their walk with God—primarily because the leaders they are in public are not always the people they are in private. Needless to say, this problem is, among all these listed here, the most serious one for Christian teachers and leaders.
Recognizing that all of us probably show some of these characteristics at times, what other characteristics would you add to this list?