11 Signs of Ineffective Leadership in Your Organization and How to Fix Them

ineffective leader standing alone

Most organizations have leaders. Unfortunately, many don’t have effective leaders. The vast majority of leaders aren’t trained to be leaders! Even those who may have pursued a business degree were likely overwhelmed by theory, not practical advice and opportunities for application. 

ineffective leaders quote

Unfortunately, in many job settings, skilled individual contributors tend to be promoted into leadership positions, whether they have the requisite leadership skills or not. This all too common practice leads to a significant leadership skills gap in most organizations. The result? Ineffective leadership. 

The bottom line: just because somebody is in a leadership position doesn’t mean they have leadership skills. When leaders fall short everyone suffers.  

Leaders with effective leadership skills can do great things for organizations; they can drive bottom-line results through their teams. Ineffective leaders, on the other hand, can do great damage. Their actions, or inaction, can hurt morale, employee engagement and bottom-line business results. Most organizations, of course, have a combination of both high-performing and ineffective leaders.

Here we take a look at some sure signs of ineffective leadership. You can use these signs to assess the effectiveness of your leaders or your own leadership. 

Why Should You Look Out for Ineffective Leadership?

Ineffective leaders can do significant damage to your organization. Leaders are responsible, after all, for leading and influencing those who report to them. If they’re ineffective, the entire team suffers. The larger the team, the greater the potential for damage, and the more significant the costs of poor leadership become for your organization.

Ineffective leaders create bad morale and hamper employee satisfaction and engagement. Goals may be unclear and productivity suffers. Demotivated and disgruntled employees, in turn, can impact customer satisfaction. The ripple effects can be significant.  

Signs of Ineffective Leadership

eleven signs of an ineffective leader

Communication problems

Unprofessional language, poor listening skills, trouble giving and receiving feedback are some communication-related signs that point to poor leadership.

Inability to make decisions

Sound judgment and the ability to make informed decisions are critical for leaders. In the absence of a decision, employees don’t have a direction for how they should be spending their time; productivity suffers.

Poor performance

Ineffective leaders generate poor performance. They fail to meet goals and fail to provide employees with the direction they need to meet their goals.

Lacking conflict resolution skills

Conflict is inevitable in any setting. How conflict is handled, though, makes the difference between an effective manager and one who will struggle to build relationships.

Quick to blame instead of taking responsibility

Blaming is a tell-tale sign of ineffective leaders. They fail to accept accountability which leads to missed goals and conflict.

Slow reaction to change

Change is a constant in today’s busy business environment. It’s also a fast-moving environment so effective leaders need to be able to adapt and adjust in reaction to a wide range of changes occurring around them.

Lack of focus or attention to detail

Ineffective leaders fail to focus on the most critical tasks, jumping from one thing to another and losing productivity in the process. Lack of focus and attention to detail can also lead to costly mistakes.

Comfortable with the status quo

In a fast-paced business and economic environment, leaders who languish in place fall behind. Ineffective leaders avoid change, cling to tradition, and in the process hinder organizational effectiveness.

Forgetting about the customer

Businesses exist to serve their customers. Unfortunately, ineffective leaders lose sight of this mandate and fail to meet, or anticipate customer needs. 

Doing the work themselves, rather than through their teams

Ineffective leaders often fall back into the roles they had as individual contributors when they felt more capable and competent. The leader’s role, though, is to achieve outcomes through others.

Lack of person and team accountability

Organizations exist to achieve results. Leaders need to drive those results. That requires action, accountability, and course correction as necessary. 

Impacts of Poor Leadership


Poor leadership erodes culture. Leaders who lack focus, fail to address issues proactively, provide conflicting information, or, through their own actions, or inaction, can negatively impact the culture of an organization.

Low Morale

Ineffective leaders can quickly impact the morale of even the most motivated employee. 


Poor morale leads to low productivity which fuels employee dissatisfaction.


Ultimately, in a toxic environment with ineffective leadership attrition will start to occur.

Poor Customer Satisfaction

When leaders are ineffective, customers suffer. In addition to the negative impact that poor leadership has on employees, there’s a trickle-down effect that impacts customers. 

Turn Your Ineffective Leaders into High Performing Leaders

We offer a leadership training program for supervisors and managers focused on 10 core leadership skills. Short, bite-sized courses teach practical “how-to” leadership skills that will turn your ineffective leaders into high-performing leaders.

Develop High Performing Leaders


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Categories: Communication, Leadership, Management, Supervisory
Scott Ulberg, Founder and President, Business Training Experts

Author: Scott Ulberg, Founder and President, Business Training Experts

Scott Ulberg is a leadership training expert. He’s dedicated over 20 years to turning supervisors and managers into high-performing leaders that positively impact their teams and organizations. High-performing leaders manage happy and engaged employees who love their work and give 110% every day, driving productivity and company performance. Scott believes in developing practical how-to leadership skills through real-world application. The companies he works with experience significant improvements, such as an 18% increase in productivity, a 15% increase in team member engagement, and a 10% reduction in turnover.