How Poor Leadership Kills Your Team - MyStartupLand

Poor leadership is poisonous. It creates a toxic environment where employees struggle to perform and it affects trust in management.

The entire organisation will be facing challenges as bad leaders take on key roles. As if this is not bad enough, it will reach beyond the company’s borders, creating a negative aura around the firm.

Picking up good leaders is a difficult and long process. Founders often mistake good managers with good leaders, but the two don’t always go hand in hand.

Managing people refers to work and tasks. Leadership, on the contrary, focuses on getting the best out of every individual for the benefit of the company as a whole. Similar in a way, yet very different. Great managers are key to a company success. Good leaders not necessarily, but they will help you build a long-lasting successful company that inspires people to do the impossible.


Leadership versus management table to compare the two(Source: The Leadership versus Management debate: What’s the difference?)


A question might be: Can success be achieved with good managers but no good leaders? Of course.

Good managers implement processes and organise tasks to get the best outcome. Putting it simply, they get shit done. Leaders work more on the motivation, inspiration, persuasion and coaching of employees to enable people to achieve greatness. Performance usually follows for leaders as well.

Ideally, one idea should not exclude the other. A good manager without the inspiring part is just executing orders. A good leader without the planning part is just a good talker. Although great leaders are usually good managers, the opposite is not always true.

Consequences of poor leadership are clear and can be disastrous for any corporation.

High Turnover

People leave managers, not companies.

We’ve heard this tons of time. Yet, we ignore it when it happens. Managers here refers to the management team as a whole, not necessarily the direct manager.

A bad apple spoils the whole bunch, they say.

If we place someone in a management position, who lacks leadership or, even worse, the skills to be there, it will be visible to the whole company. Trust will be lost in the management team and no matter how good the direct manager is, results will be equally bad.

We might think high turnover is normal in startups. This is the answer we give to those who stay. However, that’s bullshit. Let’s not fool ourselves and the people who decide to stay.

Employees retention is directly linked to company leadership.

Communication Problems

Poor communication leads to unclear instructions and unmotivated teams. Managers who spend most of the time away from their desks contribute to a feeling of uncertainty within teams. Despite what we might think, people need to be guided and it’s the leader’s role to do so.

Leaders need to be there for their teams. They need to inspire them to build new leaders who can take over. Managers who think the opposite are just looking for their own interests.

Unproductive Meetings

No one likes meetings. Everyone hates unproductive meetings.

Sitting in one-to-ones or just meetings where people are not engaged is a clear waste of time. Leaders should be the ones who keep people motivated and to the point.

Those who think is OK to read or write emails, check phone or jump from one topic to another without a conclusion are delusional.

If you sit in front of me and while talking you check your phone, I will think you are not interested, regardless if you can keep pace with the conversation. Stop being that person, seriously. You show no interest, hence the other side will think you have no interest in their problems.

Fear Of Feedback

Feedback is the greatest thing a manager can get. Positive feedback is pleasurable to hear, but negative feedback is gold.

We need to hear our team members, we need to understand them. I have seen managers getting furious because of negative feedback.

Addressing negative feedback is good. We need to understand how to improve.  However, addressing it to find out who said what (especially when anonymous), is in no way beneficial. Installing a culture of fear within the team doesn’t help anyone. Ignoring problems doesn’t lead you anywhere, or better, it leads you down a cliff.

Managers who tend to be like this, fail at creating an honest and trustworthy environment, where people can strive for success. Your team needs to trust you, they need to know you are the one who will have their backs in any situation.

If managers get negative feedbacks on a constant basis, the game is over, get rid of them.

Badmouthing About Or Lying To Team Members

No matter how bad someone can be, always choose the right words to communicate your opinion or the facts. People look at you and judge the way you solve these kind of situations. If you badmouth about someone on their back, you will lose credibility. They will think you will do the same to them. Trust is gone forever.

This often happens when someone leaves the company. I have seen and heard about it, and it’s just awful (and unprofessional). Not only this creates an uneasy situation for those who stay, it will add on a fear of being treated the same way once they will leave.

It’s All About Themselves

A leader needs to understand the concept that his team members come first and their opinions matter. Those who fail at understanding this, will not gain trust and loyalty.

A leader is only as good as his team. Ego, pride, and arrogance are not part of a leader’s traits. No matter how difficult it is, real leaders take the blame and give away all the credits.

Leaders listen, don’t talk.


Interfering with someone’s tasks without asking is never a good idea. Micromanaging is common when trust is missing or pressure builds up over time. Controlling and double checking everyone’s activity creates a sense of mistrust within the team.

Leaders empower people to achieve great results by themselves. They support and enable teams, they don’t get in their way. Overruling decisions without prior discussion will lead to resentment and anger.

Trust your team members, coach them to solve problems and give them the tools to get what you need.

Lack Of Empathy

Empathy is probably the most important quality a leader can have. If a manager fails at understanding his team’s problems, then he or she won’t be able to lead them.

A great leader cares about the team; stops and talks with people, also about non-working related topics.

Have you ever asked someone in your team how’s their life going? Have you ever noticed someone being down and asked why?

Think more about your team members as people, not employees.

Peanuts Are For Monkeys

Give peanuts to your monkeys. Keep ’em happy and feed ’em when YOU think is the right time.

No matter how you see it, if you give peanuts, you will only deal with monkeys. Rewards (monetary or not) should be associated with achievements. Giving peanuts because someone threatened to leave or because a situation is tough to handle will contribute to a monkeys’ environment. Some will be monkeys for life, some others behave like monkeys to exploit the moment and then they will leave you anyways.

Achievements should be rewarded on a constant basis. Leaders let their team members understand that with each step they take towards success they have an incremental chance to get more.

Installing this culture company-wide is crucial. It should not be limited to certain departments. People notice everything, also things happening beyond their door. If the reward system is uneven, not matter how things are done within a team, people will be unhappy.

Leadership is a company-wide culture approach. It should not be limited to individuals.

…A Last Thought About Leadership Trainings…

You can train managers, you can’t train leaders. If we could train people to be leaders, we would have a world full of inspiring individuals leading… no one…

Qualities of leaders can be taught and shared of course. However, not everyone will understand and put them in place. Companies need to track how managers use those learnings on a daily basis and understand where there is an improvement. If no improvement is seen, remove those managers from that leadership role.

Leadership trainings should be focusing on coaching and handling difficult situations with real-life scenarios. Hence, it’s important to have stress-free environments where managers can share their thoughts without fear.


The morale of the story is that leaders need to be honest, great communicators and have a “serve those they lead” attitude. It’s not easy to spot good leaders in advance, but founders need to take actions when bad ones are in key positions. Not doing so, will lead the company into rough waters and your boat will eventually sink.


Do you think poor leadership can have other effects? What do you think are the characteristics of a good leader?

Luca is an experienced sales executive and business coach with a background of over 10 years in sales and management. When not working, Luca runs one of the leading online magazines for startup knowledge, MyStartupLand, with the aim of providing meaningful and helpful content to startup founders and business people.


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