INTUIT

5 Signs You're a Toxic Leader

Toxic leadership comes in many forms — double standards, egocentricity, over-confidence, to name a few. In today’s workplace, they all spell failure. By Selena Chavis | February 2017

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If you’re a business leader, it’s a given that you’re hard-pressed for time, under pressure to see results, and short on patience when things fall through the cracks or productivity flags. But the way you lead could be the very thing exacerbating your problems.

Here are five signs that your leadership style is pure poison to your company’s culture and employee morale.

The Double Standard Leader

“[A] leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way,” says leadership author John C. Maxwell.

In other words, if you demand one set of standards of your employees and then work according to an entirely different set of standards you’ll likely be the target of considerable resentment—which breeds disloyalty, lack of motivation and, ultimately, failure.

To put it simply, your employees will follow your lead, which means you need to lead by example. And therein lies the savvy leader’s secret to success: They emulate the professionalism and productivity they expect from their employees. 

The Egocentric Leader

Movie credits seem to go on for days. Rather than simply listing the main actors and director, an endless scrolling billboard lists everyone from the key grip to the guy who held the boom for 40 seconds. Why? Because every single role—however large or small—is absolutely vital to the success of the venture as a whole.

The workplace is no different. Smart leaders understand that recognition often correlates with morale—not to mention respect and admiration. In fact, a survey of 200 employees at a project management software company [DL1] revealed that lack of appreciation was one of the top stressors for entry or mid-level workers.

The lesson? Great leaders foster a culture of appreciation. And they never forget the boom guy.

The Hermit Leader

Closed doors, curt emails and not so much as a “Good morning” spells poison for boss-employee relations. In today’s corporate culture, the “talk and listen loop” isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity.

Management styles that are visible and approachable help leaders build rapport with their direct reports and open lines of communication for the free flow of ideas and creative problem solving. The occasional “How are the kids?” or “Did you catch the game last night?” doesn’t hurt either.

What’s more, a certain level of familiarity between boss and employee can give the higher ups insight into both the positive and negative undercurrents at work in the company and help them identify problems before they become full-blown crises.   

The Know-it-All Leader

Successful executives recognize that the best ideas are often the result of diverse perspectives coming together. Feeling like your idea is the best simply because you’re the boss, shooting down ideas that venture too far from your comfort zone before you’ve even had a chance to really hear them, and talking over everyone else in order to dominate brainstorming sessions all mean one thing: You’re failing as a leader.

The very best leaders work hard to open up discussion channels and unite people behind the best idea—even if it’s not their own. When employees are active participants in strategy design and process improvement, the company promises to achieve both higher morale and forward-thinking growth.

As John Baldoni points out in his article Lead By Example: 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results, “Leadership is not a solo act; leaders point the way, but others carry the load. Therefore, the person in charge earns credibility by working collaboratively with the team as well as sharing credit for any success.” 

The Doormat Leader

Should you be accommodating or should you be firm? It’s a hard balance to strike. Effective leaders, however, nail it. They know that while being friendly is good, leaders who become close friends with their associates often find themselves facing a conflict of interests when it comes to calling out mistakes or questioning results.

And let’s face it, management styles bent on making everyone happy are doomed to failure; you can’t possibly please all of the people all of the time. Effective leaders understand that actions have consequences, rules are a necessity, and being consistent in applying them is a must. They understand that fallout is sometimes inevitable, and success is measured by how well you’re able to minimize and manage it rather than your ability to avoid it altogether. They possess strength of character and leadership presence that reminds their people every day who’s in charge—without anyone ever having to come right out and say it.