Traits of the Worst CEOs: Firing Line

Ineffective leaders often surround themselves with lackeys who tell them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.
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BOCA RATON, Fla. (

TheStreet

) -- This week's

Barron's

cover story revealed the magazine's list of the world's best CEOs, so I thought I would take a crack at looking at the world's worst CEOs, or more to the point, the characteristics that many of these bottom-feeder CEOs share.

In my experience from the front lines to the front office, many poor leaders share similar characteristics, chief among them being luck.

Poor leaders often arrive in a position of power simply because there were in the right place at the right time. The world needed a widget at that moment, and this person had the right widget. Boom ... instant money and status. Without any leadership experience or training they are thrust into a position of power and with this position comes the belief in themselves that they're somehow geniuses. And they might be.

But many times the genius that it took to build this widget does not translate into running a company well. Former Chief

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

Jerry Yang founded a phenomenal company, yet when he returned to take the reigns as the commanding officer he discovered that running a company well and starting one are two entirely different things.

Yang fumbled the potential

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

acquisition at $33 a share, something I felt personally as I watched my shares sink to the teens. He was replaced by Carol Bartz, who is still trying to right the ship.

The hubris of ineffective leaders is often aided by "yes men" and "yes women" who become groupies and tell the leader what he or she wants to hear, even though they know it's wrong. This results in short-term job security -- not long-term. Dick Fuld, former CEO of

Lehman Brothers

, ruled with an iron fist, and ultimately his poor leadership and management led to one of the largest bankruptcy filings in history. A single man's leadership style resulted in the financial ruin of tens of thousands of employees and shareholders.

This is the irony of our capitalist system. One can rise to the highest levels in business while at the same time not being truly equipped to be at the helm.

Based on my background as a fighter pilot, I've never been one to pull punches in the boardroom because we never pulled punches in the ready room. We were brutally honest with each other after a flight because we wanted to improve our future execution and get better. The admiral wasn't an admiral in the debriefing; he or she was just another pilot on that mission and heard about it if he or she messed up.

The leaders at several firms I've worked with simply cannot operate this way. They believe their own press and surround themselves with individuals who "drink the Kool-Aid," which further enables the ineffective leader.

Firing Line: Organizations run by individuals who cannot accept criticism or believe they are infallible are destined for trouble. Good people rarely stay at these firms because good people try and make these places better and usually are forced out by the groupies looking for job security. If you're at one of these firms you need to contingency plan now, because you may wake up one day and it may be too late.

Matthew "Whiz" Buckley is the chief strategy officer of

Options University

, a provider of options education for options traders of all levels. He is also the founder of Strike Fighter Financial, a business-consulting firm specializing in leadership development, risk management and strategic planning for Fortune 500 companies and related organizations. Buckley flew the F-18 Hornet for the U.S. Navy. He's a graduate of TOPGUN, has close to 400 carrier landings and flew 44 combat sorties over Iraq. After leaving active duty, he worked as managing director of strategy at a Wall Street firm and CEO of a financial media company. He is an internationally recognized speaker and combined his experiences in the military and corporate America in his book "From Sea Level to C Level."