Toxic Leadership Behaviors: Replace These 5 to Attract & Keep Top Talent

Toxic Leadership Behaviors: Replace These 5 to Attract Great Talent

Leaders, you have great impact on attracting and keeping top talent. There are also many toxic leadership behaviors that drive talent away. Here’s a checklist of the top 5 that repel top talent.

Replace Toxic Leadership Behaviors to Keep Top Talent: Image is Jewels.

Replace These Toxic Leadership Behaviors. Image by Dee Gee via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Image by: Dee_Gee via Creative Commons License

Toxic Leadership Behaviors Repel for 3 Reasons

  • They seriously reduce quality of life – the QL factor or

  • They make it unnecessarily difficult to succeed – the BS factor or

  • They indirectly cost the talent money – the Net Loss factor.

Replace These 5 Toxic Leadership Actions to Attract Top Talent

  1. Highly disorganized or uncertain. Top talent blossom when leaders set a clear vision. Wandering through a disorganized morass when deadlines loom, leaves talent wondering if success is possible. They envision more attractive opportunities and yearn for success. Replace disorganization and uncertainty with valuable vision.

  2. Negativity. Top talent wants to hear what is possible. They feed off of a reality of belief, ideas, and action. Negativity drains their spirit for they see it as unnecessary difficulty. Replace this drain with energy and a call to action.

  3. Perfectionism. Top talent see this as a triple whammy. It always comes across as unnecessary stress, it reduces the quality of their work life, and it costs them money. How? By reducing the time they can spend learning or accomplishing other valuable tasks or opportunities. Replace the scourge of perfectionism with the goal of excellence. What a difference!

  4. Fear of failure. Whether it’s the leaders who fear failure or the managers they delegate to, the behaviors that fear produces demoralize others. Replace delegation based on occupational skill with delegation based on inspirational leadership ability. Otherwise, top talent will move on to work with project managers and directors who aren’t stuck in fear.

  5. Me-itis. Top talent tend to love a confident humble leader. Self-absorbed arrogant leaders drive top talent away like a fire alarm. Replace the comfort of me-itis with a belief in what the top talent can produce for the organization.


Attracting top talent today is quite different from years ago. Many traditional leaders thought that casting doubt about a talent’s skill would make them work harder to prove them wrong. Today top talent sees that as a pointless exercise and a giant waste of time, talent, and money.

What other toxic leadership behaviors would you add to this list?

From professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Leaders, Are You Harsh or Strong?
Employee Engagement: Leaders, Do You Really Know Why Your Employees Work?
18 Things Respected Well-Liked Leaders Consistently Do

©2015-2024 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

Get more inspiration and actionable tips for high engagement results!


Buy Kate Nasser’s new book Leading Morale (


18 Responses to “Toxic Leadership Behaviors: Replace These 5 to Attract & Keep Top Talent”

  1. Liam says:

    Hi Kate

    Another good one! I think all of us will be able to remember cringe worthy bosses who met these descriptions. How many of us can look back at our own actions and remember when we met these descriptions, however?

    best wishes,


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Liam,
      So nice to hear from you — via this comment. You use a very interesting word, cringe. Truly describes how it could drive talent away!
      Thanks for creating such a strong picture.

  2. Kate,

    Negativity is the one that is so draining for me. My wife calls me Mr. Positivity because I just can’t do the n-word. Positive environments are magnetic and make people feel like anything is possible.

    As far as other leadership traits that attract top talent, I would say someone who values individual differences. Diverse backgrounds, perspectives and talents can add tremendous value to a team. Leaders who are confident enough to embrace differences allow people to feel like they can be themselves.


  3. Khalid says:


    I admit! I’m a perfectionist! You are absolutely right about that point. I got my subordinate complaining about this 🙂

    I’m trying to reduce the level of perfection I should opt for so tasks can move on faster but some times I really can’t accept missing some info which i beleive important to the task!

    I hope I can control myself in the future 🙂

    Thanks for the great advice Kate.


  4. Jon says:

    Thanks Kate, A great article.
    All the points are really important and together make/ break a leader. I specially liked the point about negativity, it’s one that we can all think about and all experience in all walks of our lives.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      So pleased you found this valuable Jon. And as you say, we can all run into negativity or be the source of it. Attention to overcome it is worthwhile!!

      I hope you will share your insights on any post of interest here at Smart SenseAbilities.

      Happy Holidays and thanks,

  5. Will add one if I may – top talent like fairness – by “definition” they are potentially high performers and they do not like to see bad behaviour or bad performance rewarded only because leaders have affinities with certain individuals

  6. Alex Dail says:

    One more thing I find that drives away talent is not treating employees as responsible people who understand that job performance is tied to their employment, but emphasizing accountability (i.e.,a watch dog mentality).

    Thanks for a great topic in a time where organizations are becoming are blaming their employees for the ills brought about by management decisions. Leaders need to look at what situation they are creating that is making it difficult for employees to do their jobs before placing blame.

  7. Alicia Foster says:

    Very helpful and great wisdom to think about! Success is only achieved when the achiever believes in themselves. Thank you for your wise words!

    Best Regards,
    Alicia Foster CEO
    PCAT Enterprises

  8. […] Replace these toxic leadership behaviors that repel talented employees. What other behaviors would you suggest leaders eliminate?  […]

  9. Excellent article Kate! Always appreciate your wisdom. You are a rockstar for sure! Have an awesome week!

  10. Lisa Hanson says:

    Great read, Kate. I’ve also found vying to be the smartest person in the room is a talent crusher as well.

  11. Alli Polin says:

    Excellent! Great list! I’ve worked with and for leaders who are so entrenched in negativity, it’s a wonder we accomplished anything!!

    I’d add work-life balance. We all know leaders who stay at the office significantly past the dinner hour on a daily basis and team members feel the pressure to do the same. The mentality “I can’t leave before my boss” can be crushing when your boss is a workaholic or perhaps has a different family/life situation than you.

    Will share!

    ~ Alli

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Very interesting addition Alli! There is that mentality and I love the distinction you show. People have different family/life situations and workaholism can be detrimental to that and to health!

      Thanks for adding your insightful voice to this discussion.


  12. Zippy says:

    Great article Kate, especially for those in start up companies still trying to get their footing. Thanks for the valuable advise

  13. […] Replace these toxic leadership behaviors that repel talented employees. What other behaviors would you suggest leaders eliminate? The People Skills Coach™.  […]

Leave a Reply

KateNasser on Facebook KateNasser Blog KateNasser on Twitter KateNasser on LinkedIn KateNasser on Pinterest