• Matt Black

What Poor Leadership Looks Like

It seems overly simplistic to point out that poor leadership can destroy an organization or team. A ship without a sail, after all, drifts aimlessly without a clear idea as to where it’s headed. But how do some miss the mark so badly? And perhaps more importantly, how can you tell if you are on a deserted island without a leadership map in sight?

Here are a few revealing signs you are surrounded by a weak leadership group.

Communication Breakdown

Communication breakdown, it’s always the same. I’m having a nervous breakdown, drive me insane!”

Led Zeppelin figured out the importance of strong, consistent communication 45 years ago. So why hasn’t your organization? Communication is defined as “the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviours to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else.” Seems pretty straightforward, right? It’s amazing to think that a concept so easy to appreciate and understand still fails to resonate with so many leaders in key positions.

A great example of communication at work is how “in the know” your entire leadership team is. If you hear the phrase “oh, I wasn’t aware” or something along the lines of “hmm, that’s news to me” from anyone in senior management, chances are that your key people aren’t talking. It’s easy for breakdowns like these to have a negative effect on productivity, morale and overall performance at the office.

Unrealistic Organizational Objectives

Setting a deadline that’s impossible to meet is like wearing shorts in the middle of February and expecting to stay warm.

It’s doomed from the outset. And let’s face it: staring down the barrel of an unattainable goal is demoralizing and stressful. By doing so, your leadership group is sending a message: “we know you aren’t going to be able to do this – and we don’t really care how it makes you look or feel.”

Leaders should be using motivation and aiming towards realistic achievements to inspire their people. It’s extremely motivating to hit a target or accomplish an objective. It energizes a team, makes them value all of the hard work that goes into operating at a high level.


At your next office function – let’s say a Christmas party – take a look around the room. How many of your colleagues do you really know? If you work for a large-ish company, the answer is probably not too many.

And sure, it isn’t absolutely vital that you’re familiar with everyone’s life story at work. Some will say “hey, as long as the work gets done, that’s all that matters.” And that’s true to some degree. But working in silos where people aren’t genuinely connected, where isolated agendas and competing interests go to war with one another every day, typically results in disappointment and failure.

Great leaders appreciate the importance of their team being able to see and feel their connection to the overall vision of the organization. A significant part of making this happen lies in building great relationships with colleagues in different departments. Silos have a way of preventing alignment, creating distrust, short-circuiting communication and impeding efficiency.


The biggest losses as a result of poor leadership are actually people themselves. Your best employees will not survive without strong leadership. Period. Plain and simple.

This stems from the fact that high-performance people thrive on support, motivation, ingenuity and criticism – all of which are most powerful when coming from the top. Great leaders appreciate the fact that their best people need to be challenged and that they seek out opportunities for growth. If you’re watching your best performers walk out the door, it’s very likely they aren’t feeling inspired or pushed by those in charge.

Lack of Long-Term Vision

For most of us, it’s important to have a fairly clear idea as to what is expected of us and where we’re headed as an organization or team.

If you ask “what’s the plan?” and all you hear are *crickets*, chances are there isn’t one. Staying motivated without a finish line in sight is tough for anyone. Great leaders appreciate the fact that their teams need to feel like they are working towards an overall objective or result. Otherwise, what’s the point?

If you’re putting in extra time at the office and spending the majority of your waking hours thinking about your projects, shouldn’t you have some sense as to the impact you’re making? Effective leaders should not only have a vision for the short and long-term future of their teams, but also be communicating it clearly.

What other trends have you seen in relation to poor leadership? Feel free to discuss in the Comments section below!



©2021 by Matt Black Ink | All rights reserved | Toronto