How to Spot a Leech Before They Suck the Life Out of You and Your Team

The greatest crisis in organizational life is an energy crisis within.

How to spot a bloodsucking leech:

#1. Leeches always need more.

The people you give the most, need the most.

Experience indicates that leeches are never happy with what you do for them. Eventually they blame you for their dissatisfaction.


  1. Practice reciprocity. Expect return when you’re generous with capable others.
  2. Say, “No.” You’re the problem if you keep saying yes to leeches.

#2. Leeches throw tantrums when they don’t get their way.

Short-sighted leaders give whiny leeches what they want just to shut them up.

You know Barney is a leech because everyone dances around him. Listen for things like, “Don’t upset Barney.”


  1. Provide opportunities for leeches to reflect. “I notice you pushing back on this. What’s going on for you?”
  2. Provide tough feedback. “Your team is reluctant to offer suggestions and alternatives. How might you generate options, rather than defending your position?”

#3. Leeches make pit-bulls look like pussy cats.

The need to win turns successful leaders into leeches. Interactions become competitions.


  1. Ask, “When was the last time you were wrong?” Smile and wait for an answer!
  2. Ask, “What goes through your mind when you think of someone else winning?”

#4. Leeches create drama.

Everything’s a crisis to a parasite.


  1. Intentionally delay responses to a leech’s concerns. “Let’s wait till tomorrow and see how the team works it out.”
  2. Generate a list of behaviors that strengthens relationships on the team. Ask leeches which behaviors they will employ this week.

Drama deflects responsibilities and destabilizes relationships.

The undeniable value of positive energy calls you to radically confront behaviors that suck the life out from you and your team. 

The more energy you pour out for a leech, the more they need.

How might leaders identify leeches?

How might leaders put a match to the butt of a leach?