Beware of negative leadership

Beware of negative leadership

Beware of negative leadership

Negativity in the leader can interfere with the smooth functioning of any organization. This is a well-known fact. What if negativity in the leader is not perceivable, and the inmates of the organization are under the illusion of well-being and well-functioning of the organization?

To an outsider, the organization appears intact, running smoothly. But employee productivity is dwindling for no visible reasons. Despite the meticulous hard work, targeted goals are eluding successful accomplishment. Unreasonable setbacks in the motivation of employees confound the management.

Negativity in the leadership personality might be the silent, invisible reason. It has the power to douse the vigor and enthusiasm of employees.

Authoritarian Vs Negative leadership

Authoritarian leadership is rather easy to recognize. A leader’s overt behavior keeps spilling bitterness of it all around. The faulty ways of the leader will be very much visible to the employees who are at the receiving end of authoritarian leadership. On the contrary, in the negative leadership, not so explicit, negative traits of the leader do not directly influence any employee specifically. But in the long run, it may incur serious attrition in employee engagement. These traits of leader usually appear as attribution errors, personal biases, and similar cognitive errors. Employees might be sensing a lack of progress but they need not be able to articulate the reason behind it in words.

Negativity hurts

There are certain “things” which form the very lifeline of employee engagement and the productivity of any organization. Such things enrich both formal and informal aspects of all working environments. No amount of mandatory discipline can create these things as they have to unfold organically in the working space of each team member. Empathetic and insightful day to day transactions of the leader is very much instrumental in assuring it. Negative leadership hurts these “things”.

What are these “things”? How negative leadership hurt them? Let us see.


Some leaders are not aware of the role played by bonhomie in the success of the organization. So they do not pay deliberate attention to it. When conflicts of interests and opinions arise leaders do not consider it important to reach an amicable solution. Though they may not be subscribing to the “divide and rule” policy they do not feel the need to build an air of friendliness and sharing in the working ambiance. But, it affects the organization badly. Bonhomie among employees is the backbone of collaboration without which productivity suffers.


There are many aspects of a leader’s personality which strengthens the willingness of team members to collaborate. For instance, if a leader is intent on grabbing the limelight, the spirit of collaboration is likely to wither away. Obsessive self-importance compels the leader to take credit for everything that transpires as good. Such leaders forget the fact that collaboration thrives upon the culture of appreciating the collective effort. Individual achievement though important, has nothing to contribute if it fails to translate itself into a force which makes collective movement possible. The success of an organization is not individuals with talents but talented individuals with a mind for collaboration. So rewarding the individual and collective contribution must go hand in hand.


Creativity eludes working ambiance when the leader is ignorant about the dynamics operating behind it. Such leaders are simply unaware of situational factors which help in unleashing the creative abilities of employees. They just put the list of dos and don’ts on the table. They confront important official gatherings with close-ended questions. As a result, the team members’ brains never storm. Even if their brains storm, the leader does not encourage out of box thinking as if he has a phobia/fear of alternatives. In the long run, the collective brain of the team starts moving along a rut. Divergent thinking is seldom entertained. Missing the sparks of creativity means innovation and growth elude the organizational climate.


Subtle, seemingly insignificant things may come in the way of winning the collective interest of the team. Some leaders –who lack insight—are too closed to acknowledge this fact.  Winning the trust of subordinates is not in the priority list of such leaders. But it matters a lot. Lack of transparency, lack of opportunity for clarifying doubts (regarding various issues), favoritism, discrimination and lack of integrity in the leader personality, etc may lead to trust deficit. Lack of trust creates a peculiar uneasiness in the working ambiance where team members will not feel free to open up, to come out with new suggestions or to involve wholeheartedly in collective ventures. Employee participation will not dare to cross the boundaries of the mandatory roles.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is the behavioral manifestation of the emotional bonding that employees share with the organization and its mission. The major factor which threatens it is a distorted sense of authority the leaders assume throughout their dealings with subordinates. The leaders who overestimate the power of their position often do not know about the power of persuasion. They do not know the difference between the power of influence and the power of command.

When the leader is compassionate and well mastered in crafting empathetic communications, the team follows the leader and his vision “voluntarily”. This helps in unleashing the collective genius. When employees feel that they are being controlled and coerced, employee engagement dwindles and success evades despite the well-intended working policies and plans.

Emotional regulation

Whether it is anger or admiration, excitement or happiness, jealousy or appreciation, reaching at right conclusions, responding to employee queries – in all these situations, employees expect decency and maturity from the leader. A leader’s inability to control his impulses creates a wave of uncertainty and employees are left with no choice to foresee the responses of the leader.

Moreover, leaders who lack emotion regulation capacity misinterpret the intent behind the words and deeds of subordinates. The real danger breaks out when the leader chooses to act upon it. In extreme cases of ensuing conflicts, employees either leave the institution or fight for what he thinks is right or just remain mentally disengaged.


Continuous empowering of the employees through training and providing time and space for new learning is essential to refresh their intellect and will – to reorganize their attitudes and standards so as to match the demands of the contemporary world. But some leaders do not feel the necessity of nurturing human resources they are in charge of. In the long run, the mindsets of employees lose their flexibility. They think in repeated cycles like machines that have fixed pre-determined, limited capacity for functioning. This is enough to choke the creativity and growth impulses in organizational ambiance.

 Sense of time

The flow of time and sense of time are two different things. Some leaders fail to keep a tab on the “ticking” of their watch. They might be hard-working and appearing busy. But they do not acknowledge the fact that smart work can save a lot of time. Hard work is a waste and yields nothing if it does not commiserate with the “need of the hour”. Such leaders might not have mastered the art of prioritizing—the main ingredient which transfer hard work into smart work. Teamwork becomes a rudderless voyage in the hands of such leaders. When members are used to doing what has been told to do, they lose track of the aspects of the work which is most significant. “Need of the hour” never pops up  in the collective mind of the team.

Freedom of choice

Micro-managers appear to be meticulous but they are blocking free movement of thoughts and interests of the group. When a leader does not know how to spot the situations that require his direct interference, he curtails the free will of members by his monitoring rituals. There are two types of leader personalities who resort to micromanagement. The first type does not trust the abilities of their subordinates. Such leaders are always insecure. The second type thinks that a leader is a person who must attend to 100% of things happening in their organization. Otherwise, the leader will not get their due respect and recognition. Leaders who micromanage, usually, end up spending their energy on the wrong side of the activities happening in the organization.

The terror of error

If there is no space for committing errors, there is no possibility for new learning. Some leaders do not leave space for learning from mistakes. They create a fear of mistakes among team members either by warning too much about possible errors members are likely to commit or by intimidating the person who errs. Leaders simply don’t know that “mistakes”, when supplemented with timely, constructive feedback, act as best teachers. Such leaders usually hate feedback loops which are a strong tool for employee growth and development through experiential learning. The fear of mistakes creates a group of employees reluctant to leave their comfort zones and venture into novel possibilities. Without a mind for learning, no team member can contribute towards pushing the team to the upper tiers of growth.

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