Home Personal Development The Dark Side of Success: How to Identify and Avoid Toxic Leaders

The Dark Side of Success: How to Identify and Avoid Toxic Leaders

The Dark Side of Success: How to Identify and Avoid Toxic Leaders


Bad bosses may make good TV and movie villains. It’s true. But as an entrepreneur with dreams of success, you don’t want them to play starring roles in your company’s show. Unfortunately, many toxic leaders are also very crafty. If you’re not attuned to their subtle negativity, you might overlook problems and end up courting significant consequences.

As an entrepreneur, you know that your team is the backbone of your business. That’s why it is important to pay attention to the dynamics between your employees and their supervisors. If you have a toxic manager on your hands, it could spell disaster for your company. Professionals leaving their job due to a poor supervisor is not just a theoretical problem; many have left their jobs because they felt disrespected. 

Don’t let a toxic leader bring down your business. Keep an eye out for these warning signs and nip them in the bud before it’s too late. Trying to replace talent is challenging in any market. Additionally, if your startup has a reputation for being a difficult workplace, it will be harder to attract and keep top talent.

The good news is that it’s possible to spot early warning signs of toxic leadership in your midst. Just remember to look beyond the obvious. It’s a piece of cake to notice a firebrand who scares direct reports or someone who’s impolite, vulgar, or rude. Yet it’s also important to watch for the following low-level indicators of negativity among your executives and managers. That way, you can intervene quickly and either coach the coachable or let go of the irredeemable.

1. They Never Take Ownership Of Errors

The blame game is a real issue in many offices. That isn’t good if you have a director or supervisor who always points fingers. It means you can never get to the root of any problem so that it can be fixed.

Many bad leaders are good at blaming people who are unfavored or not well-known. For instance, a supervisor might blame errors on newer or younger employees. These employees may not understand how to speak up for themselves and maybe gaslighted into believing they are at fault. As a result, the toxic leader skirts any responsibility and the employee feels guilty for no reason. 

To avoid allowing this kind of behavior, practice total accountability. Start by making yourself the role model, so everyone knows that making mistakes is acceptable as long as you learn from them and try to avoid making the same mistake twice. Clear transparency is important in leadership, especially when things don’t go as planned. Leaders need to take responsibility for their actions and admit when they are wrong. This allows for a culture of trust and openness within the company.

“A leader is admired, a boss is feared.“

2. They Like To Play The Gossip Game

Gossiping negatively is a destructive behavior that can be especially harmful when it comes from a manager. Not only does it spread quickly and ruin reputations, but it also does a disservice to the company. Ironically, despite their negative impact, toxic managers who engage in gossip may be well-liked because they always seem to have the latest information.

It would help if you acted when you realized that you have a gossiper in a leadership role. Gossiping pits team members against each other and allows cliques to form. This can destroy a healthy corporate culture and cause rifts between people and departments. Eventually, the rifts will impact your work on behalf of clients or customers.

Gossip can be a destructive force in the workplace, but it’s challenging to stop it once it starts. Bring attention to the issue and suggest alternative behaviors, such as expressing gratitude and appreciation. Focusing on these positive emotions can help slow the spread of negativity and mistreatment in the office.

3. They Show Their Bias Against Particular Employees

As a leader, you’ll always have employees who are better performers than others. Typically, they’re your go-to team members for important projects and you hope they’ll stick around to be tomorrow’s leaders. Yet it would help if you did more than shower them with all your attention since that’s what bad bosses do.

A poor manager will focus all coaching and mentoring efforts on one or two favorite employees and ignore the rest. While this makes sense and is natural in one way, it alienates most of the team and prevents others from stretching their wings. That’s not good. Employees may initially have steeper learning curves but eventually become superstars with enough support.

Keep a close eye on your direct reports, who are your leaders. Do they bypass other employees for assignments, including smaller tasks that could serve as learning opportunities? You may have to intervene and insist that the work be completed more fairly. Ensure the leader doesn’t sabotage your request by withholding information to prove you wrong.

Toxicity has no place in your startup. It’s that simple. When you see it, put an end to it. Thanks to your diligence, your culture and your brand will be much better off.



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