What do we do about bad leaders? I make a distinction between “bad” and “evil.” Bad leaders are those people who are bad at leading. They can be those who are promoted to a senior position based on technical expertise rather than their ability to lead or people promoted based on potential rather than performance, for example. Bad behavior may result from insecurity, inexperience, or low self-awareness.

The corrective actions for bad leaders may include training, coaching, or targeted assignments with structured feedback. The goal is to close the skill gap or fill the toolbox with what the person needs to improve their performance as a leader. These are a lot of the people I encounter in executive education programs and with whom my coaching colleagues work.

Evil leaders, by contrast, are those who lead with selfishness or malevolence. They may be extraordinarily good at the types of things we expect of leaders: vision, motivation, decision-making, accountability, etc. That they are so good is the problem because of their ill intent. I’d like to downgrade those skills, not improve them.

An environment that promotes good leadership will have zero tolerance for toxic behavior (see Bob Sutton’s The No Asshole Rule). Such an environment will use honest mistakes as learning experiences (see Amy Edmonson’s The Fearless Organization). It will be one that develops everyone’s ability to think and act like leaders (see David Marquet’s Turn This Ship Around). The list could go on. The examples in each of these books show that there are performance benefits beyond the intangible rewards of simply being decent.

The point is that there is a roadmap. We are not waiting for a theoretical breakthrough or practice innovation. Why, then, do bad leaders continue to emerge? I cite three principal reasons in my latest piece on Medium. Read the full post here.