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How To Identify Traits Of A Toxic Leadership

Almost every bio on Instagram has the title “CEO” slapped carelessly across their description. On social media and the internet, there are more CEOs than “leaders” on the rise every day. Companies are springing up in every corner of your city, and by extension, every corner of the internet. 

We may soon run out of website names. 

A Harvard Business School Study discovered that toxic bosses resulted in:

  • 25% of employees taking their frustrations out on clients clients and customers.
  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort and intentionally spent less time at work.
  • 78% said their commitment to their organization declined.
  • 66% said their performance declined.

Using the current trend of employees resorting to Twitter to discuss their first-hand experiences with ‘toxic bosses,’ it’s hardly surprising that 57 percent of employees leave their jobs because of a terrible boss. While several organizations are being called out for having toxic workplaces and CEOs, many more are suffering in silence.


But, exactly, what does it take to be a leader?

Is being a company founder and the inventor of the solution a company provides the same as being a leader?

Nowadays, with an ever-increasing number of startups and entrepreneurs, practically anyone can assume a leadership role simply because it is their idea/solution; after all, who else should lead the charge?

A chief executive officer is the highest-ranking executive in a company who is ultimately in control of making managerial decisions.
But, unfortunately, a company is not a piece of technology that can be operated by simply providing a set of instructions; it is not programming and cannot be executed using zeros and ones. Leadership, as opposed to the executive role of CEO, involves a significant amount of human management.
This is the main difference.

Human resource management is deeply embedded at all levels of an organization and without it, one will run into so many of the problems.


Toxic leadership emanates from when a person who is responsible for a team of people or organization abuses the leader-follower relationship and leaves the team in a more critical condition than when he/she interacted with them first.  

Working under dysfunctional or bad leadership can be demoralizing and could also have an impact on the overall performance of a team. Toxic leaders prioritize their own interests, and those actions jeopardize the well-being of their team. 

Leadership always sets the tone of the workplace culture and appropriate behavioral norms, therefore controlling these settings and everything mostly falls on the leaders. In an organization, toxic leadership hugely affects a team’s morale, productivity, and performance, hereby making it difficult for a team to thrive. Some of the other effects are; 

  • Fear which would lead to employees’ emotional and physical disengagement and detachment, such as tardiness, a lack of participation, and exit. 
  • Low team morale and work satisfaction leading up to poor efforts in their jobs. 
  • High level of stress, burnout and psychological distress. 
  • Counterproductive workplace conduct and activities. 
  • Unhealthy and uncomfortable work environment.

RELATED POST: How To Choose The Right Team Members For Your Start-up (As An African Entrepreneur)


  1. Passive Listening; A good leader should be an active listener. One can tell whether someone is truly interested in whatever you have to say when you communicate with them. If a leader is overwhelmed with workload, he or she should be self-conscious enough to notify the team that now is not the time to hold and schedule a formal meeting with the employees. It’s an issue if they’re just not paying attention because it saps motivation and discourages employees from relating with their bosses.
  1. Less care for growth; A good leader has an extraordinary capacity to bring the best out of people a nd if a leader doesn’t seem to care about their team’s growth on the path they’re on, that could be a red flag. As the company moves forward to provide the solution, the leader has to at least make an effort to or designate someone who will observe or put structures in place to ensure that his team is improving.
  1. Favoritism; A toxic leader favor some employees above others. The classic move is to simply pay attention to anybody who they like rather than carrying everyone along with them. They would also criticize and go out of their way to reprimand others while seemingly ignoring their favorites’ mistakes. 
  1. A toxic boss is never wrong; Not only do they never accept their faults, but they may even blame it on others. Regardless of the fact that their expectations are excessively unrealistic and inappropriate by many standards, they will overwork the workers and maintain that they have done nothing incorrectly. A toxic employer could make rational decisions while executing tasks and never admit it but would rather shift the responsibility to someone else, and in rare cases, even punish that employee. A national independent study by Lynn Taylor Consulting found that 91% of employees said that owning up to one’s mistakes as a manager was an important factor in employee job satisfaction.
  1. Never open to new ideas; It is anticipated that a leader will be receptive to new ideas and innovations from employees to help the company expand. A leader who pays no attention to his employees is one who does not see them as human but as robots who must go exactly in the direction given thereby showing the lack of interest in their personal advancement.
  2. Lying Bosses; A boss who lies is untrustworthy — not a good foundation for a productive relationship. Other bad bosses just can’t face the fallout that will result from telling the truth.
  1. Quick to blame others for mistakes; Good leaders never blame others for mistakes but would rather have conversations explaining what the issues were with their employees in private. That is a major tool of forging an intimate bond between a leader and team.
  1. Expects employees to be just like them; Most people like others who are similar to them but good leaders know that different types of personalities can improve their team. They would constantly cast their image onto everything done by the employees.
  1. Micromanaging; Toxic leaders are always so pushy and overbearing therefore putting their team members in positions where they are unable to accomplish anything efficiently.
  1. The pesky habit of calling you on your day off; Toxic leaders do not understand boundaries and calls their employees during off hours. Separation anxiety can kick in for power-hungry bosses, and they would inadvertently chip away at that power and become extra demanding.

Here’s a bonus point!

A good boss will have discussions of prospects for long-term growth within the company with team members— and not just during your performance evaluation. Savvy bosses check in with their team on a regular basis, rather than being reactive or waiting for an emergency, such as your brand-new job offer.

Silas Ugochi

Silas Ugochi is a Staff Writer and Content Creator at GetFundedAfrica. Ugochi is an educated content writer who relishes using her skills to help GetFundedAfrica's Media Team achieve the goal of sharing the success stories of African entrepreneurs. When she isn't writing articles, she can be found listening to music, reading, or DJing.

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