Leadership mistakes that affect staff retention

Leadership mistakes that affect staff retention

There is a myriad of behavioural factors that contribute to an individual excelling at leadership in an organisation.

Having worked under the leadership of some excellent leaders and some abysmal ones, a colleague asked me the other day if I could name the three worst facets in managers I’ve worked for.

After a short ponder, I came up with the basic skills a manager should have, include coaching, communication, feedback, empowerment and team building.  And while these are all essential traits a manager should possess, there are certain destructive idiosyncrasies I’ve seen first-hand from managers which effect people, activity and process.

Let’s start with something I find incredibly frustrating….

1. The leader who doesn’t delegate

In just my second ‘proper’ job since leaving university, I inherited a director who lived a little too close to the motto that if a job is worth doing, then you should do it yourself.

I joined the business eager to learn and develop and unfortunately the director’s leadership method ensured my output was stifled and I felt both demoralised and unvalued.

I found out that there was a succession of individuals who had done the position before me, only to leave the business after a short stay because of similar frustrations.

After a few months in the role, I used my initiative to set up a meeting with a new print supplier after analysing we were paying well over the odds for our print and production.  This was met by an angry outburst from my Director who was disgusted that I got involved in matters which she felt didn’t concern me.

Perhaps the Director felt threatened with the possibility that the people she employed would one day take her job, or perhaps she just found it really difficult to change old habits.  I left the role after less than 12 months, feeling that my lack of involvement in anything outside my job description was really stifling my skill set.

Following that experience I have always tried to be a manager who utilises the strengths of my various team members.

And as for the Director I left behind, well, let’s just say she didn’t last much longer with that business.

2. The arrogant leader

A good leader is someone who displays pride in their team’s work.  Unfortunately there are managers out there who relish in taking too much credit for a team’s output and this can lead to a degree of perceived arrogance amongst their peers and resentment amongst the team they are managing.

A good leader is also someone who is self-aware and who understands the impact they have on others.  The Director in the example above conducted her work in a bubble, never really understanding the implications of her lack of a team ethic.  She therefore succeeded in alienating people and disengaging the team she managed.

It was certainly true that this particular director was an example of an old fashioned leader; someone who believed that their leadership was beyond reproach.  It was perhaps excessive arrogance in this director that created executive isolation and the fear of delegating tasks to her team members.

Over time this creates a working environment of fear, blind obedience and compartmentalisation where workers will do the bare minimum to keep from being disciplined or fired. Read this blog for a funnier take on types of horrible bosses like Miserable McMisery, Terry Teflon, or the Energiser Bunny.

3. The bully leader

Workplace bullying can be defined as: “The repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another or others in the workplace, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate workplace practice. It includes behavior that intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates a worker, possibly in front of co-workers, clients or customers.”

Rarely do we see the old-fashioned method of management of barking out an order or two and sitting back, waiting till a task is completed.  Today’s effective leadership is about engagement and not heavy handed bully-boy tactics which will find a manager isolated and unsupported by their immediate team.

Bullying isn’t just restricted to physical bullying.  I’ve known managers in the past who have thought nothing of belittling and intimidating individuals in the workplace who they felt didn’t quite come up to scratch.  They wrongly believed that this was a fantastic tactic to try and gently remove a particularly individual out of the business.

But employers should realise that they have a ‘duty of care’ to their employees and this includes dealing with bullying at work. And there are measures outlined by the government you can take if you are being bullied, which you can read here.


If you are a manager, then you should ask yourself if you are guilty of any of the ineffective behaviours above, and if you are, are you capable of changing?  Or could it be that you are unaware that you have any negative traits in your leadership style and possibly need some feedback from your team to show you the light?

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