5 Ways To Spot Toxic Leadership Behaviours That Are Destroying Your Team Morale

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I have worked with many leaders who inspired and encouraged me to contribute immensely to my work. Under their leadership, I flourished and became a better person, leader and contributor to society. Unfortunately, there are the direct opposite of these type of leaders. These are toxic and deadly leaders who thrive on negativity. They are in the main, morally, ethically and spiritually bankrupt. Their only currency is positional power. Be cognizant of their toxic behaviours and make sure not to emulate:

  1. They reprimand their subordinates openly

Such leaders get joy from rebuking and shouting at their subordinates in the presence of other team members. As Eric Hoffer states, “rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength”. They use team meetings and open sessions to address matters that should be tackled in confidential spaces.  This is done to cause shame and to intimidate others into submission.

 2. Talk bad about their subordinates behind their backs

Under normal circumstances you would expect leaders to protect their subordinates against unfair attacks, but not the toxic ones. They change their tune depending on who complains about their subordinates. They do not listen to gain facts and better understanding. Sadly enough,  they change their tune when they are with their subordinates by giving a false sense of support.

3. Undervalue the contribution of subordinates

This stems from unspoken competition where these leaders want to appear better than their subordinates. They act as though they do not see the contribution of their juniors. They like to relish under the limelight when things go well but project blame on their subordinates when things do not go well. This reflects their insecurity about letting subordinates lead instead of supporting from the background.

4. Pit team members against each other


They are masters of deceit and trickery who are hell-bent on causing division in the team. They build loyalty by incentivizing those who sing their tune and chastise those who do not dance to their music. As Sujay Somany says “a negative and toxic person never feels teased with the genuine  presence of the pretenders in his network and he always feels pleased with the absence of the genuine leader in his circle”. Competence and performance do not guarantee a space in their teams but loyalty to their diabolical schemes does.

5. Undermine their peers

These leaders take the boardroom discussion to the corridors. They slash their peers to garner support from their seniors. They stoop low by talking negative about their peers to their  junior employees. They are not team players, instead they want to reflect other leaders as bad and portray themselves as the martyrs.

 Tex Hlalele

Think Big, Dream Wild & Prosper



  1. Very succinct and insightful piece of writing. Such leadership is an impediment to people’s growth on a psychological and emotional level.

    1. Hi Mzwakhe, you are spot on my brother. The scars left by this type of leadership go deep. The key for anyone of us is to be able to reverse the cycle. We need to develop more servant leaders and turn the tide around

  2. Thanks Tex for this reminder .
    I like the notion of developing more servant leaders as this is something that is often forgotten by leaders. Leaders are suppose to create platforms for others to flourish and grow. They are suppose to sport, develop and nature talent. The irony is that the whilst a toxic leader might think their are spighting their subordinates this is their own down fall because one is only as good as their leader.

    1. Hi Nokuthula, first and foremost thanks for taking time to comment. This is the essence of what true leadership is. Check next article which talks exactly about what you are saying

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