Businesses are fragile. In fact, only 25% of new businesses survive 15 years.

Why do small businesses fail? There are many reasons that a company might fail, including a lack of funding, retaining an inadequate management group, a faulty infrastructure, and an unsuccessful marketing campaign.

But, one overlooked reason is poor leadership skills.

The truth is that certain skills or behaviors can harm a business’s success, even though they are generally valuable. These are the top 12 negative skills or behaviors:

1. Inadequate communication.

In order to collaborate effectively, work in a team, and transmit ideas clearly, communication skills are essential. Difficulty communicating can lead to misunderstandings, errors, and a lack of cohesion in the workplace.

Additionally, an individual with poor communication skills will not be able to lead a team very far. Unless a leader is able to articulate goals and objectives and ask questions, it will be difficult to understand what’s actually happening within the company and with the team members.

What’s more, communicating in various environments and media is a must-have skill. Ideally, they should adhere to the 70-20-10 rule when having conversations:

  • 70 percent listening
  • 20 percent asking questions (plus some brand advocacy)
  • 10 percent tracking (information summarization and synthesizing)

In the words of Paul J. Meyer, Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.”

2. An inability to adapt.

Business environments are ever-changing and fast-paced today, which makes adaptability key. In addition to hindering progress, innovation, and company safety, those who resist change or have difficulty adapting to new technologies, processes, or market conditions can harm the company’s reputation.

Perhaps one of the most notorious examples is Blockbuster CEO John Antioco.

Reed Hastings approached Blockbuster Antioco in 2000 about buying Netflix, a movie rental company he had founded, for a measly $50 million. Despite the offer, Antioco infamously declined it.

By 2010, Blockbuster had gone bankrupt, Netflix had become a $150 billion company, and Antioco was gone as CEO.

There’s more to this story, and Netflix is not entirely to blame, but Blockbuster ultimately failed because it was too slow to adapt to changing customer demands. Instead of adapting to new technologies, they were too complacent with their business model.

3. Having no vision.

Without a clear vision for the future, leaders won’t be able to lead a team that meets goals and targets regularly. Without a clear vision, leaders will have difficulty motivating and inspiring team members, affecting brand value and performance. An unattainable vision, tunnel vision, or constantly changing vision will prevent a leader from guiding his team toward its goals.

Effective leaders stay in touch with their team members about where they’re going and how to get there, instead of sitting on the sidelines.

4. An attitude that is toxic or negative.

There is no doubt that a toxic attitude or a persistently negative attitude can negatively affect the company culture as well as employee morale within the organization, as a result of negative behavior such as complaining, pessimism, or spreading negativity in an organization, a toxic environment may be created. As a result, this can also reduce employee engagement, retention, and lower productivity.

It is your responsibility as a leader to prevent or address toxic work environments and toxic work cultures within the organization. As a starting point, it is important to be able to recognize your personal shortcomings and mistakes. Owning them and taking action to address them is a powerful way to send a powerful message to the rest of the team.

In addition, when a leader takes the time to listen to his or her team and communicates with them, it helps re-establish a sense of confidence and trust among the team members. In order to avoid negative consequences, you need to identify the root of the problem as soon as possible. By doing so, you will be in a better position to take action.

5. Lack of accountability.

Taking responsibility means taking full responsibility for one’s actions, responsibilities, and failures, as well as the results of those actions. Having leaders who consistently transfer blame, don’t take responsibility, or do not meet deadlines without consequence can undermine the effectiveness of their teams, erode trust, and negatively impact the efficiency and productivity of their work.

I think legendary college basketball head coach Pat Summit said it best. “Responsibility equals accountability, accountability equals ownership, and a sense of ownership is the most powerful thing a team or organization can have.”

6. A lack of flexibility and a lack of willingness to learn.

We live in a dynamic world, and that is why learning new skills and embracing them is important in the workplace of today. It will be more difficult for a company to adapt to changing circumstances when a leader resists:

  • Acquiring new knowledge
  • Refuses to learn a new technology or methodology
  • Displays a lack of a growth mindset

Eventually, this can limit progress, impede innovation, and limit the company’s ability to cope.

7. Making the wrong hiring decisions.

An organization’s success depends on its ability to recruit talented employees. Even if your product or service is the best in the world, it may not be enough. Your business could fail if you can’t fill marketing, sales, distribution, etc., positions.

In short, it is crucial for every organization, especially small companies, and startups with fewer employees, to hire the right people. After all, either they’ll propel your business forward or bring it down. As such, this is one of the most critical aspects of your business’ success.

When hiring employees, please make sure that you choose wisely. If you hire the right people, they will grow along with you, contribute to your company’s success, and hopefully reduce the need to hire new employees repeatedly.

8. Unwillingness to collaborate.

For many organizations, collaborating and working together to reach success is an essential component for successful outcomes. It is important to note that employees can hinder collaboration in a variety of ways, including:

  • Limiting knowledge sharing.
  • Uncertainty regarding decision-making.
  • Not trusting your team.
  • Possessing poor interpersonal skills.

Ultimately, this reduces productivity and hinders the team’s ability to perform at its best.

9. Micromanagement.

Your team members will likely be resentful of you if you are always getting involved in every aspect of their jobs. People who are control freaks are usually insecure and suffer from compulsive behavioral disorders that prevent them from accepting responsibility.

Instead, an effective leader empowers his or her team. Get your ego out of the way and let your team do what they do best.

10. Reluctance to accept feedback.

Even though it can be uncomfortable, constructive feedback is essential for professional growth. People who are resistant to feedback, defensive, or fail to improve can hinder your company’s growth.

Negative feedback may not feel good at the moment, but it can most certainly transform a business — for the better.” Albert Costill writes in a previous Calendar post. When you listen to bad feedback, you can identify both your own and your team’s weaknesses. As a result, your team members will feel more confident. In turn, morale and productivity will go up.

11. Apathetic.

Being apathetic is one of the most unfavorable traits a leader can possess. In other words, leaders who appear in body, but are unaware or inattentive to what is happening within their organization, function, or team.

What are the signs of leadership apathy?

  • They spend most of their time on tactical operations. Also, they struggle to lead and delegate.
  • Regardless of the level of performance their employees provide, they accept it.
  • Often, their employees feel underappreciated and deprived of feedback and challenges.

To overcome this apathy, you first need to get to the root cause. According to “The Curse of Apathy: Sources and Solutions” by Dr. Leon F. Seltzer, events such as being rejected for a job you really wanted, breaking up with someone you really cared about, or following the same routine every day without any improvement may lead to apathy. In the face of overwhelming thoughts about failure and its consequences, apathy is one way to cope.

You can regain motivation from there by tracking your successes, implementing a new routine, or connecting with others like a mentor.

12. Inaction and inactivity.

Taking the initiative, being proactive, and contributing beyond the assigned tasks make companies thrive. A leader who consistently waits for instructions avoids new challenges, or fails to take initiative can negatively influence innovation, productivity, and the company’s ability to adapt.

And, as we’ve seen with businesses like Blockbuster, that can spell disaster.


What are leadership skills?

The ability to guide, motivate, and influence others toward achieving mutual goals is referred to as leadership skills. Identifying challenges, inspiring their team, and driving positive outcomes are all skills that effective leaders possess.

Which leadership skills are essential?

  • Communication. Leaders should communicate their vision, goals, and expectations clearly. Besides listening well and accepting feedback, they should also be capable of fostering open, honest communication.
  • Decision-making. Leadership involves making sound judgments, assessing situations, and gathering relevant information. It is important to take calculated risks and consider the implications of their decisions.
  • Emotional intelligence. Leaders with high emotional intelligence can empathize with others and understand their own emotions. They use this skill to build strong relationships, resolve conflicts, and motivate others.
  • Adaptability. A rapidly changing world requires flexibility and adaptability. Their strategies and plans should be able to adapt to evolving circumstances and be open to new ideas.
  • Problem-solving. A good leader identifies and solves problems quickly. Developing innovative solutions requires a proactive approach, analysis from different perspectives, and a proactive mindset.
  • Strategic thinking. A leader should be capable of thinking strategically and developing a long-term vision for their organization or team. They can reach their goals by identifying opportunities, setting realistic goals, and devising strategies.
  • Empowerment. Effective leaders empower their teams by delegating responsibilities, providing support, and encouraging collaboration. As well as trusting their team and encouraging autonomy, they recognize each individual’s contributions.
  • Integrity. Leadership requires honest, transparent, and ethical behavior. Teams are built on trust and integrity when they set an example.
  • Resilience. Challenges and setbacks are common for leaders. A resilient leader perseveres in the face of adversity, learns from failures, and inspires his or her team to succeed.
  • Team building. Teamwork is key to leadership. They recruit the right people, encourage collaboration, foster a positive work environment, and encourage professional growth.

These skills are not exhaustive, as different contexts and leadership styles may require additional skills. People can improve their leadership skills by practicing, receiving feedback, and reflecting on their actions.

Why are leadership skills important?

There are several reasons why leadership skills are vital:

  • Driving success. An effective leader sets clear goals, devises strategies, and guides his or her team to success. They inspire commitment by providing direction, inspiring commitment, and aligning everyone. In turn, this drives all-around success.
  • Motivating and inspiring others. Leaders motivate and inspire their teams. Leadership can boost morale by communicating expectations, recognizing and appreciating team members’ efforts, and providing guidance. Motivation leads to engagement, productivity, and commitment.
  • Building and managing teams. Managing and assembling teams is vital for leaders. In addition, they delegate responsibilities effectively and foster collaboration, creativity, and innovation.
  • Driving change and innovation. Fostering innovation and driving change requires leadership. The right leader can identify emerging trends, adapt to new challenges, and encourage their teams to embrace change. Their mission is to create a culture of continuous improvement, risk-taking, and valuing ideas.
  • Resolving conflicts and challenges. Leaders often face conflicts within their organizations or teams. Leading involves managing conflicts, finding common ground, and resolving them. Leaders can stay calm and make tough decisions in uncertain times.
  • Developing future leaders. Leaders invest in their team members’ development through mentoring, coaching, and guidance; they empower individuals. The long-term success and sustainability of organizations depend on developing future leaders.
  • Building trust and credibility. Leadership requires trust. Trust and respect are earned by leaders that demonstrate integrity, transparency, and ethical behavior. As a result, trust fosters collaboration, loyalty, and psychological safety within the team, facilitating effective problem-solving.
  • Enhancing organizational culture. Leaders shape culture. A leader’s core values, high standards, and positive environment shape teams and organizations. Top talent is attracted and retained through a healthy and inclusive culture.

Featured Image Credit: Mike van Schoonderwalt; Pexels; Thank you!