Self-Evaluation: 6 Signs You’re a Toxic Leader

By Sumit Gupta

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

Behind every success is a team that makes everything possible through hard work and dedication. And behind every team is a good leader who shapes and paves the way for the members to achieve their full potential.

Leadership is not just about being charismatic and powerful, but it is also about influencing others to maximize their efforts to achieve a certain goal. Furthermore, leaders are more than just mere supervisors; if anything, leaders carry the responsibility of accountability, inspiration, and creation.

As they say, it takes a whole crew to sail a ship and a captain to keep the unit afloat. One thing turns into something detrimental, and the whole journey becomes a lost cause. And a lot of these issues can result from toxic leadership. Now, to help you avoid the pitfalls of a toxic leader, here’s a checklist for personal self-evaluation that will help keep things in check.

By being on the lookout for ‘what not to be,’ you are immersing yourself in proper leadership development so you can inspire others and shape your team better.

1.    Arrogance

Toxic leaders often possess arrogant and narcissistic attitudes. They are boastful and are used to thinking that they are always right. They tend to force others into accepting their opinions as gospel and truth.

This kind of person has no allowance for feedback, especially if it comes from a subordinate. They also have a lack of respect for their team and will offer no help to anyone. They tend to see their employees as pawns lesser than them, thus expecting others to obey their commands quietly.

Usually, arrogance is just a pretense that one has confidence, and it can be tricky when leaders act like they can handle everything that is lobbed at them but really cannot. It makes everyone around them shut down, and that keeps the important issues hidden beneath the surface.

Lack of Confidence

2.    Self-Servitude

A toxic head is a self-serving one. They often let their team feel the pressure of corporate power by controlling and manipulating them. This person is adept at pulling strings for their own interest and pleasure by using seniority or their higher ranking within the company. Often, they provide false guidance or advice only to advance themselves.

A leadership characterized by serving instead of being served creates a harmonious flow and increases performance levels. If a leader knows how to advocate for a positive workplace, then a relationship of trust that maximizes engagement and productivity can be created.

3.    Lack of Faith and Confidence

If everyone could reach a consensus about what they hate the most, it would be a manager or supervisor who micromanages every move in every project they do. Having a pair of eyes over your shoulders and a mouth by your ear judging everything you do not only makes you feel uncomfortable but also gives you a feeling of incompetence.

Toxic leaders tend to have a lack of trust in the abilities of their employees. They make judgments based only on what they see, effectively limiting the employee’s ability to be versatile and creative. Such an attitude can hinder the growth of members as a team and as individuals.

4.    Incompetence

Employees can sense when their boss is unable to make sound decisions, leading them to question authority. Toxic leaders frequently boost their egos by criticizing others’ work and making them feel less than they are really worth. But behind their guise, they are incompetent and could even struggle to make even the smallest decisions.

Such a leadership style results in an inability to communicate well. And if one has poor decision-making and communication skills, leadership could easily crumble. This is why such leaders have their own professional “YES” group of people surrounding them. This “yes” group usually mimics the leader’s attitude and makes them less vulnerable to forward-thinking employees.

5.    Unmotivated and Lacking Support

Another thing that discourages people is a leader’s lack of support. An indifferent boss hinders not only the maturity of employees but also their capacity to achieve the organization’s goal.

Bosses like this tend to focus on their own advancement, and they struggle to acknowledge others’ hard work and even take credit for themselves. This behavior stems from ego and fear.

Furthermore, lack of motivation can cause employees’ enthusiasm towards the goal to fade, leading to overall delaying of projects and, eventually, the organization itself.

Moral Compass

6.    Lack of Moral Compass

Leaders should have a moral compass to serve as their lighthouse in uncertain times. They should be fair, humane, and have empathy, especially in tough times. But these values tend to be overshadowed by profit-building or popularity-seeking.

Prioritizing personal interests leads to further corruption, as examples of the recent Volkswagen emissions scandal show.

Such leaders will also repeatedly reward incompetence and even condone bad behavior. Their arrogance is also laced with biases and prejudices that will often slip out in the form of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination.

The absence of morality in leadership is contagious. This means that the leader and fellow members can and might resort to harassment and bullying, making the workplace unsafe and unhealthy, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Hence, a good leader must know the values that make them who they are and where to draw the line. They respect their people and know how to earn it. Respect harbors love and admiration instead of fear, which is a great way to lead and be led.

A leader acts as the foundation that keeps everything intact and stable in an organization. And your leadership compass is your own foundation that prevents you from going astray in challenging times.

If you’ve noticed any of the above signs in yourself, then it might be time to do a self-evaluation. Remember, negative energies can only create a negative workspace, which ultimately hinders your employees from reaching their maximum potential and your team from performing well. 


Do not be afraid to take a step back; look at yourself and assess what kind of a leader you are. Ask for people around you to share anonymous feedback.

Don’t be shy to take leadership coaching, if needed, as it will help you become aware of your blind spots.

Coaching can help you go past a point where you feel stuck or are unable to change.

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Sumit Gupta on Linkedin
Sumit Gupta
Sumit Gupta
Sumit is a techie and a leadership coach. He has read 250 books on neuroscience, psychology, leadership, and philosophy to understand human nature and what good leadership is. His years of research has led him to start Deploy Yourself and has since then written countless articles on leadership, communication, team management, and emotional intelligence. If he is not busy with coaching and computers, you can find him taking beautiful snapshots of scenery.
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