These Five Things Can Kill Your Credibility as a Leader

(Updated 12.12.22)

I’ve written many articles on this blog about what it takes to be a successful, effective leader.

In my experience, truly great leaders are few and far between. There are a lot of good leaders and even more bad ones. But great leaders are a rare find.

The good news is no matter where you stand on the bad-to-great leadership spectrum, there’s always room for growth. If you dedicate yourself, you can become a great leader.

In this article, however, I’ll explore the opposite side of leadership, the things you need to avoid as an aspiring leader. Understanding the traits of great leaders is essential, but perhaps even more important is understanding what NOT to do.

To avoid killing your credibility as a leader and losing the respect of your team, make sure you aren’t doing these five things.

Play Favorites

It’s human nature to connect with some people more than others. To be an effective leader, however, it’s critical to take steps to ensure this doesn’t lead to playing favorites.

If your team notices select people get away with certain actions when others are frowned upon for doing the same, they’ll begin to talk. Once the talking starts, it can be challenging to make it stop.

Not only can the chatter lead to a lack of respect for you as a leader, but it can also pit team members against one another.

The resentment caused by the perception of favoritism can lead to a lack of productivity as your team takes sides and their ability to work smoothly together suffers.

Favoritism can also destroy your company by creating a toxic culture. Recent studies showed that the #1 reason employees leave their jobs is a toxic workplace.

In fact, the study cited that 1-in-3 employees who quit their jobs last year did so due to a seriously toxic culture. Don’t let favoritism bring you and your team down.

Show equal appreciation to all team members. No one should be considered lower than anyone else on the team, and no one should be placed on a pedestal.

Waiver on Decisions

Indecision can cause your team members to lose trust in you quickly. 50% of employees say that lack of trust impacts their career choices. If you break their trust by showing you don’t believe in your own decisions, you’ll lose a ton of talent.

Being decisive is a critical component of being a great leader. It’s vital that your team respects your decision-making, so when you go back and forth and waiver on your decisions, it can create the impression that you don’t know what you’re doing or aren’t willing to take a stand on critical issues.

Great leaders can make tough decisions, even when faced with the most difficult choices. If you waiver on your decisions, especially on decisions that should be straightforward, you can lose your team quickly.

Talk Poorly About Team Members

Have you ever bashed one of your direct reports to one of that team member’s peers?

Hopefully, you answered ‘no.’

No matter what kind of issues a team member is causing or how mutually disliked that person may be among their peers, as a leader, you should never talk poorly about any team members behind their back.

Aside from simply being the wrong thing to do, talking behind the backs of your team can create a negative impression of your loyalty to the team.

The person you are talking to may even be in agreement, but inside their head, that person is likely listening to your rant and wondering what you say about them when they aren’t in the room.

You want your team to trust you and be willing to come to you with important news and information. If you show that you can’t be trusted, you’ll miss many chances to collaborate, learn from your team, and uncover critical opportunities.

Always Shift Blame

Some leaders feel like admitting when they are wrong makes them look weak. In reality, the opposite is often true.

If you constantly shift blame to your team, they will quickly realize where they stand, and their loyalty to you as a leader will disappear.

A little humility goes a long way.

When you mess up, own up to it. Never shift the blame to your team.

Stand up for your team when the need arises, always be prepared to admit when you’re wrong, and move to make positive changes rather than throwing the blame all around the room and hoping it sticks.

Steal Credit

Your team members do great things, and they make you look good. Bad leaders ignore this and instead steal credit for all the great things their team members do.

If you never give credit where credit is due, your team members will stop giving it their all. Why should they? They never get any credit for their achievement anyway.

Thank your team members regularly.

Highlight your team’s achievements in public, so they get recognition in front of their peers.

Take the time to pat someone on the back when they help the company grow or do something big. By doing this, you show your genuine appreciation and motivate your team to keep trying their hardest.

Final Thoughts on Things to Avoid as a Great Leader

Avoiding these five things can help position you for success as a leader. Failing to avoid them, however, can lead to an untimely demise of your leadership tenure.

Don’t turn your team against you by showing them your dark side.

Talking behind people’s backs, shifting blame, taking credit where it’s not due, or waivering on decisions can get you in hot water as a leader.

Avoid doing these things, and you’ll be on the road to leadership success.

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Anthony Gaenzle
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4 thoughts on “These Five Things Can Kill Your Credibility as a Leader”

  1. All are cred killers because each displays fear manifest as mental weakness. People want loving, strong-minded leaders who forgive fear and look beyond the habit of blaming. Be a mind warrior, Go within. Face your fears to uplift, to inspire and to gain credibility. What an excellent post.

    • Thanks! Unfortunately, aspiring leaders make these mistakes all the time. Often, they don’t realize the impact their actions have on the perception their team has of their leadership capabilities.


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