The Top Ten Toxic Behaviors of Lousy Leaders

“Most leaders don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.” Peter Drucker

Top Ten toxic Behaviors of Lousy Leaders:

#1. Neglecting relationships. A short conversation about someone’s family while getting coffee isn’t a waste of time. If you want great results, build strong relationships.

#2. Tolerating bad apples. Time makes bad apples rot. They don’t ripen with time. Your team is waiting for you to reassign, retrain, or remove people who don’t fit or don’t contribute.

#3. Avoiding tough conversations. Bad gets worse when you avoid it. Try saying, “I noticed…,” when the topic is uncomfortable. Describe it. Don’t judge it.

#4. Making feedback conversations personal. Don’t criticize someone’s character. Describe behavior and impact. “When you (behavior) the team (impact).”

#5. Spending too much time focused on problems. Fixing is a backward-facing activity. It’s necessary to fix problems, but the future is built by seizing opportunities.

#6. Never apologizing. “I was wrong,” builds more trust than self-justification or excuses.

#7. Failing to see the good side of bad qualities. The things that irritate you about others may reveal strengths. A slow decision-maker may be great with details.

#8. Hiding behind weaknesses and faults. “That’s just the way I am,” is a leader’s way of saying get used to me interrupting you, for example. The other sentence to listen for is, “I’m just not good at that.”

#9. Listening too little and talking too much. Listening saves time. Stop answering questions that aren’t being asked. Bloviating leaders suck the life out of teams. Jumping to conclusions diminishes others.

#10. Listening with a critical fault-finding attitude. Explore other people’s imperfect ideas. Most people don’t need to get their way. They just need to be heard.


  1. Hoarding good jobs and delegating crap assignments.
  2. Defining yourself by your successes and others by their failures.
  3. Believing success is transferable.
  4. Neglecting culture.

What’s on your top ten toxic behavior list?

Bonus material:

8 Traits of Toxic Leadership to Avoid (Psychology Today)

The 20 Bad Habits (Goldsmith)