What is an illeader?

I have been pondering a question…

If a leader is, by businessdictionary.com’s definition:

‘A person or thing that holds a dominant or superior position within its field, and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others’.

*[For simplicity of this blog we will stop here, as I do appreciate that there is a vast quantity of definitions of what a leader or leadership is.]

Then what is the opposite of a leader?

Ok, a mighty google search ensues to discover and investigate the answer. 123,000,000 general results, but only a handful is actually looking to answer this question.

Three notable contributions are below:

Quora.com takes a nice approach and looks at the opposite of the Leader definition stating that the opposite is someone who ‘chooses the wrong objective (or no objective, that is, just drifting), applying ineffective or immoral means to achieving it, and disengaging others’.

ileadifollow.com debates a common response to this question, by those in the know, is a ‘follower’ but then goes onto dismiss this answer, as it feels that leaders and followers are complimentary, even reliant on each other. Then it proffers the term ‘Pessimist’, but this solution has an opposite in ‘optimist’ so this just doesn’t work either.

Ok, this is where the blog got interesting, it then suggested ‘Non-Leader’ then went onto discredit it; ‘Poor Leader’ then went onto discredit this as well. With no answer becoming obvious the author takes to creating a word – a novel approach! The newly created word was ‘Illeader‘. The premise of this word being that illiterate is the opposite of literate, illegal is the opposite of legal, well you get the idea. ileadifollow.com then goes on to describe how an Illeader might be described as ‘Anyone who tries to damage/negate the efforts of a leader by turning the team/group away from the intended path using negative traits, resulting in the effort or the organisation getting nullified.’

Interesting! Before looking into the opposite of Leader I was sure that the answer was simply to put a poor, bad or incompetent in front of leader and voila! But this doesn’t seem to be the case. Both websites surmise that in order to be the opposite of a Leader there must be ill-intent (sorry couldn’t resist) of the leader, an active element that wants things to go wrong, similar to that of the bad guy trying to foil the good guys intentions in a blockbuster movie; in effect an Anti-leader. But as I am sure everyone is aware capability is a core component of a leader’s effectiveness as well as their intention. So on we march…

Broadening the question to the opposite of Leadership leads to a website entitled Doug Blackie Consulting, which has another slant on the opposite of Leader. Here it adopts a ‘title’ in front of ‘Leader’ to describe the activities of that Leader. The terms ‘Phantom Leader’ is used to described someone who is for all intent and purposes invisible in the organisation, ‘Seagull Leader’ is described as someone who only appears when there is an opportunity, creates a lot of noise and mess then flies off to another bright shiny thing leaving a lot of guano to clean up.[love this explanation].

The author remarks that the opposite of a ‘Phantom Leader’ is a Visible Leader, ‘Visible leaders build trust by being consistent, predictable and reliable’…’Visible leaders’ are also ‘Effective Leaders’ because they create excitement and commitment by focusing on a small number of wildly important goals; achievable, measurable and meaningful milestones that the team can rally around.’

He surmises that perhaps the opposite of a Visible or Effective Leader is simply a ‘Dysfunctional Leader’. This opinion errs more on the leader being incompetent more than deceitful. These people are no less dangerous in an organisation, just less aware of their incompetence and the impact of their actions. I am sure we can all think of a nice ineffective leader, who seems to survive every management shuffle mainly because he or she is liked by everyone.

So, what is the opposite of a Leader?

After researching many blogs and websites I am clear that there is no readily acknowledged term to describe the opposite of a Leader. This is because it is dependent on the acts of the individual. I feel it is best to term the leader to how you see them i.e. an Incompetent Leader is descript enough, as is a Bad Leader. Although I like the concept of ‘Illeader’ I can’t see anyone using this anytime soon, unless they are looking to wow people with their exceptional knowledge on the subject.

In my opinion there isn’t one answer to this question, as it is heavily dependent on the individual characteristics of that person. Every Leader is different in intention, competency, knowledge, experience etc. and it isn’t until you are aware of this information that you can make an opinion.

No, I think I will continue to describe Leaders based on my assimilated or known knowledge of that individual. What is your opinion?

Websites referred to above are provided below, please give them a visit.


*All comments are based on my personal experiences and given freely. That said, you need to make your own choices. I can’t and won’t accept liability for you employing any recommendations. Business is all about risk. It’s your choice.

Nigel stone has, over the last fifteen years, started, led, consulted and nurtured both UK and European businesses to achieve quite outstanding results.



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