Here are three warning signs that you may be a toxic leader and how you can make changes to avoid these damaging behaviors.

Let’s face it: As the leader of a company, region, or even a team, you have the power to influence those that report to you. This can be a great asset to teams governed by leaders that pride themselves on hard work, respect, and open communication.

But what about a leader that does the exact opposite? A leader whose behavior creates a negative, possibly even hostile, working environment?

Toxic leader: who are you?

A toxic leader is defined as a person who has responsibility over a group of people or an organization, and who abuses the leader–follower relationship by leaving the group or organization in a worse condition than when they first found them.

It’s easy for toxic leaders to blame poor performance and low morale on individuals within the team. But, at some point, it’s important to see if the way employees are managed is a direct reflection of their leadership.

Here are three warning signs that you might be a toxic leader and how to fix the behavior.

3 signs you’re a toxic leader

1. Scattered priorities

This type of toxic leader is an expert in failed time management. Leaders that are unable to prioritize tasks and allow employees to focus on getting their work done are really working to waste their most valuable resources: their trained team.

A recent survey conducted by consulting firm RHR International showed that among high-performing leadership teams, 93% are able to prioritize the most important issues and 96% focus on the right issues. But in low-performing leadership teams, only 62% prioritize well and 53% are focused on the right issues.

Change: Leadership that calls meetings without a set agenda, leaves issues unresolved, and veers off topic when met with questions needs to sit down and start to focus. Toxic leaders that find themselves with scattered priorities can easily get back on track by creating lists that document daily, weekly, and even monthly tasks. Work with your team to delegate tasks and create solutions to issues, and then give them the space to work on their assignments.

2. Unhealthy rivalries

The overly competitive leader with an eye on perfection often has a ‘winning is everything’ attitude, even if comes at the detriment of their team. This toxic leader doesn’t mind leaving broken employees on the sidelines if it means getting ahead.

The overly competitive leader with an eye on perfection often has a ‘winning is everything’ attitude, even if comes at the detriment of their team. Click To Tweet

In reality, instead of getting ahead, these toxic leaders create a hostile work environment, where employees lose interest in their jobs due to unobtainable demands and a lack of trust in their leadership.

Change: Leadership, and the rest of their team, must work as a unified team. “Shared goals must be accompanied by shared accountability,” writes Ron Carucci, co-founder and managing partner at leadership consulting firm Navalent, for Harvard Business Review. Remove the unnecessary competition from the workplace, and focus on dividing and conquering so everyone is doing their best and achieving their best.

3. Unproductive conflict

When conflicts arise, and they are most certainly going to, leaders need to step in quickly and efficiently to resolve the situation. When organizations have leaders that create or improperly handle conflict, the rest of the team follows their lead.

These leaders often have a reason or excuse for any issues that arise and rarely take responsibility for their role in the matter. With high confidence in their abilities, toxic leaders with unproductive conflict often believe they are right and surround themselves with people that won’t challenge them.

Change: Leadership needs to have certain behaviors that absolutely will not engage in: speaking negatively about team members or other employees or withholding feedback or suggestions that will positively impact their team. If you can relate to any of these points, sit down and write out behaviors that you will no longer engage in. Distribute this list to your team and regularly assess how you’re doing with your list and where you need to personally make tweaks.

What are some other sign of a toxic leader?

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