5 Harmful Leadership Behaviors to Avoid

I’m sure when you read “harmful leadership behaviors” your brain immediately remembers the worst boss you’ve ever had. I think a lot of us can relate, having faced substandard leadership at one point or another within our careers. Hopefully, you choose to be a different kind of leader. But many leaders still struggle and remain oblivious to the things that seem so obvious on the outside, but on the inside they often end up ignoring them instead of accepting their shortcomings by seeking ways to improve. Here are a few harmful behaviors I find to be the most common.

Having Unrealistic Expectations

One of the more harmful leadership behaviors is setting expectations that teams could never hope to achieve. Presenting this behavior can often cause continued strenuous conflict because leaders who anticipate a result that isn’t realistic, creating a culture built off of disillusionment and distrust. Set goals for your team that challenge them but are ultimately obtainable. This will help build and shape their growth, development and confidence as well as play a hand in building that trust that is so vital to keeping up with engagement and retention.


In my opinion, this is one of the most well known downfalls to good leadership. This quality comes out when a leader fails to relinquish control and is unable to place trust in the teams they’ve put together. Giving your employees the space they need to effectively complete their work is a primary way of showing trust. The way to know that your team is capable is by allowing them to carry out their individual duties without constant input. Although some employees need direction at every step of a process, many leaders fail at this juncture by taking over the task instead of giving their team the opportunity to carry out said tasks on their own. Do this often, and it will eventually contribute to feelings of resentment and inadequacy that are extremely difficult to overcome if left to grow. 

Eliminating a Healthy Culture

People want to work for those who respect their time, needs, and goals. Creating an environment that takes these things into account is one of the biggest staples of exhibiting good leadership practices. Managers are responsible for facilitating healthy working environments both physically and mentally. Failing to do so is often portrayed as one of the worst leadership behaviors. Just take Amazon, for example. It’s been billed for years as one of the largest companies with a detrimental work culture. And whether or not that’s actually true, the mere perception of having a negative culture can be extremely damaging. So, both at the team and organizational levels, leaders must attempt to establish healthy workplace norms that contribute to a corresponding healthy culture.

Refusing Constructive Criticism

No person is perfect, and by extension, no leader is either. Even the best make mistakes and fail sometimes. Growth relies on constructive criticism and feedback to balance development in both your personal and professional roles. Everyone has their own opinion, and sometimes those opinions don’t mesh well. But when someone offers you the opportunity to view things from a different perspective, learning to make the most of your indiscretions is a huge vantage point of tweaking your leadership style. Now, I’m not saying that every single problem can be fixed by a wave of the wand, and some circumstances may just have to be tolerated. But if you refuse to accept and listen to constructive criticism and feedback, you won’t grant yourself the way to your full potential.

Unwillingness to Change

I want to conclude with this behavior, because it becomes the end all, be all. If at any point in your life you are unwilling to make a change that can further your growth in your personal life or your leadership, it all boils down to your unwillingness to change. Great leaders must be willing to open their ears and listen to their faults by acknowledging that there is a better way to grow from them. Not a single one of us on this earth has all the answers, but in order to become a better leader and overall a better human being, everyone has to embrace change.

If you want to be sure not to lead with these harmful behaviors, you must consistently check yourself and how you relate to others who look for guidance and leadership from you on a daily basis. You CAN make better choices!

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