Is Your Leadership Style Holding Your Team Back?

This is a guest post by Chris LoCurto. He is the Vice President of Live Events for Dave Ramsey and also a speaker. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

During my coaching sessions at EntreLeadership Master Series in Orlando, there were a few themes that kept popping up. One of those was leaders having problems with their teams not going the extra mile. Not taking on more responsibility. The first instinct is that you hired lazy people. In many cases that is true.

A Businessman Shouting at a Businesswoman Using a Megaphone - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #15886285

Photo courtesy of ©

But there’s a combination that I’ve found that explains why so many team members are so hesitant. When a leader is perceived to be a bully, or condescending, or leads with fear, then I find that they tend to have a team that, in their own words, “won’t go the extra mile.”

Why, you ask? It’s simple really. When team members are made to feel like all they can do is fail, they won’t try to succeed.

If they can’t ever make you happy, and all they get is friction, their minds tell them to stop doing so many things that leave them vulnerable to a verbal flogging. Now if you’re sitting there saying, “Wimps! They just need to get over it!” then you probably have these people on your team.

When you keep your team in a constant state of shell shock, you can’t expect them to take risks. They know that if they do, there is a chance they will get punished for failure, which leads to more tongue lashings. So how do you know if this is your team? Ask some questions.

  • It’s not you. It’s me. Start with your spouse. I know, I know, this already sounds bad. But really, who knows you better? Ask them if they feel like maybe, possibly, you might tend to be a little, teeny bit rough as a leader from time to time. If you have to throw a bucket of water on them to stop them from rolling around on the floor laughing, then take that as a “yes.”
  • Do you … wanna tell him? Ask your leaders. Now, this gets a little tougher because they aren’t going to want to answer you honestly for fear that you’ll react like you always do … if you’re that person, that is. So you’re going to have to let them know it’s safe for them to be honest and crystal clear. If you hear something you don’t like, you can’t take it out on them.
  • He gets it, he really does. Finally, ask your team. This is the toughest of all because you feel like this is weakness in their eyes. And if they say “yes,” then surely there’s going to be some revolt the next time you get onto them for taking the last of the coffee and not making a new pot. Trust me, it’ll be okay. They will have more respect for you if you show them that you’re working on it.

You can’t be expected to change overnight. And you can’t expect them to trust that you’ve changed overnight. But what do you have to lose by trying? Your attitude and their lost productivity. The one silver lining is that they really do want to please you. If they didn’t, they would already be gone. (This might explain some of the losses you’ve had.) Ultimately they want to make you happy, but not at the expense of getting in trouble.

Question: Have you ever worked for “That guy?” If so, what would you want him or her to know? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Justin

    This important piece reminds me of the CBS program, “Undercover Boss.”

    I have some issues with the show, but it grates on me when the CEO returns from his or her week in hell to tell the team what was found out and what should be done to correct any deficiencies. Every team leader starts the nodding of the head, as if to say, “Oh, I get it,” or “That’s a good point.”

    Where have you people been?

    If these alleged team leaders were actually doing their jobs in the first place, they would already know or quickly find out where the problem areas are and correct them! But, of course, that’s not happening because they’re too busy kissing up to look good.

    ……And the vicious corporate cycle continues.

    • Dave Hearn

      That’s good Justin.

    • Chris LoCurto

      I see that a lot actually. But what I find as the main reason, is nobody taught them HOW to lead. They were thrown into the position, and when things go wrong, they freak. Great comment. 

    • Joe Lalonde

      Justin, it is a vicious cycle. What I see happen is the bad practices of old management get passed down to new management. This creates poor managers and then those poor managers pass on their bad practices.

      Another issue that happens is these leaders get tossed into the position with little or no training and little or no desire for the position other than the title.

    • Kenneth Clapp

      Justin, I think a big part of the problem is American Corporate structure to begin with. The bottom line is always in the ledger. Management is always on the line to increase profitability. Companies no longer seem to understand (beyond superficial lip service) that the heart of an organization is it’s employees, not it’s ledger book. Management decisions seem more and more only to concern themselves with the “bottom line” and increasingly fail to consider the employees until it all goes terribly wrong. We sell our employees for a fractional increase in our quarterly reports.

      • Chris LoCurto

        You’re absolutely correct. With that in mind, we do have to HAVE a bottom line. Without it, it’s a waste of time. However, in Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book – Thou Shall Prosper – he talks about the Jewish people believe that if we become obsessively preoccupied with the needs of others, all the rest will fall in line. In other words, like you’re saying, the heartbeat of a company IS the people. Take care of them and they will take care of the bottom line!

        • Kenneth Clapp

          Agreed, the purpose of business is to make money – part of my ongoing frustration with the larger corporate side of America is the idea of never ending growth. Profits must always increase to earn the shareholder a return. The sad thing is this eventually becomes an unattainable position. (think Walmart, Microsoft, and Google – they can’t simply do good at what they do, they must grow and expand constantly, or fail utterly.) American companies (publicly held ones, anyway) can never say, “good enough for now, let’s maintain, take care of our own, and see where the next door will open..” We MUST grow. And we must have quick (quarterly) returns. 

          Texas is a great example of how messed up our general approach to business is. When Texas was considering the Trans-Texas corridor (part of a trade rout between Mexico and Canada) there was a lot of flack about the fact a Spanish company was given the contract for development, and not a Texas (or even an American) company. The reason? The Spanish company was willing to wait 50 years if necessary for the majority of the payoff  – American companies wanted everything up front.  A little off topic, I know, but I think the big picture is that much of the bad management that occurs is a direct result of the poor business culture that the U.S. has continued to promote. The challenge for good management is to rise above the mess and engage their people as people and not just part of the corporate earning structure.huh… apparently I had the need to rant today :)  And all this coming from someone who spends full time in ministry and only has to face corporate America when I go to the store – or see the affect it has on those around me.

          • Michael Hyatt

            I certainly understand why you would feel this way. But one thing to consider is the attitude of the workers themselves. Image for a moment that you are the CEO of a company. By some miracle you were able to convince your owners that endless growth is not sustainable. You wanted to flatline the business. It would still be profitable, but it would not grow.

            Do you think you could also convince the employees that you could no longer give promotions or raised? These are the by-products of growth. If you are not growing, nothing needs to change. The status quo becomes acceptable.

            I would guess that you would have an easier time convincing the owners than the employees.

            Just a thought.

          • Kenneth Clapp

            Michael, excellent point. And the reality is, growth is a natural result of being healthy, for an individual or business. Let me try to give it a little different perspective. Though I have spent the majority of my life in full time ministry, I have spent time in the corporate world as well. For the average worker their increase in income, raises, etc., was only inadvertently related to corporate growth (granted, I was never union). Many good people have worked the same jobs for years for basically the same pay. In fact most raises came from “moving up” in the company. If you wanted higher pay you trained for a higher paying position. Even in a “flatlined” company there will always be the flow of some leaving, new hires, retires, etc. The group that seemed to always want more money for doing the same thing was management. In many companies it’s management that reaps the benefit from growth, labor simply maintains. 

            But then when times go bad, or, in those extreme cases where saturation has occurred, like say, Wal-Mart, in order to protect shareholder investments jobs are cut, responsibilities are consolidated, etc.. The continued growth doesn’t benefit the employees, only the shareholders and the upper management.

            And please, don’t take this as any kind of reflection on you, Michael, or Thomas Nelson. There are good companies out there too, and good management. My wandering thoughts were directed more at the general foundation American business.

            This may have been out of place, Chris’ excellent article just got me thinking about the big picture of American business and the shaky foundation our culture has built for it. Building corporations on publicly traded funds allows for much faster growth, and the growth of the mega-corporations. But it also comes with a price, a price the employee usually ends up paying, and management has to somehow juggle.

          • Jmhardy97

            I have never had it explained that way, but that is a great point. It makes you look at the situation much different.


      • Jmhardy97

        Good point Kenneth. I would challenge you to go to a private service organization and a public organization and see where you get the better service. I bet it is the private organization nine times out of ten.


    • Jmhardy97

      That could be true Justin

  • Dave Hearn

    To be honest, sometimes I do feel like I can be “that guy”.  Although I like to think of it as “being intense and passionate” :^)

    Do you have any advice on how to work on this?

    • Chris Cornwell

      Me too. I work on a church staff in very unique environment. I run a full-time ministry from a part-time perspective. There are times when staff meetings are via video conference at 10pm. I want to get things done. So I dive right in and start ripping things apart in order to fix them. I think of it as being intense and passionate as well. Others don’t see it that way sometimes.

      • Chris LoCurto

        Very few people do. Only those who rip other people have respect for it. The rest stand on the sidelines thinking, “jerk!” What you need to do is discover WHY you feel the need to rip. Is it the team isn’t doing their job correctly? If so, what are you not doing to make them successful? Find the source of why you feel the need, and then attack that to get it fixed.  

        • Chris Cornwell

          Rip is strong word I guess. Not to downplay my faults. I just meant that
          sometimes I just jump straight to things that are wrong. When I do it all
          the time, I become “that guy” because I get perceived as the guy who
          complains and whines all the time. I’m just being passionate but sometimes I
          forget to just sit back and celebrate the wins.

          But you are right. Sometimes we attack other people when the people aren’t
          the problem. But can’t blame stuff. That doesn’t work, so we blame people.

          • Kenneth Clapp

            Chris, something you may consider is how your team fits together, temperament wise. I was in a position for a while where I felt like it was constantly me against the rest of my team, and especially the Sr. Minister. I didn’t like that at all. I had enormous respect for everyone I worked with I just always felt that I was somehow constantly on the outside. Any communication I tried seemed to get no where. The “big break” finally came during a leadership retreat we did where our counselor administered the Myers Brigg’s Temperament Survey. It was rather eye opening when we charted the results and I was all by myself, completely opposite everyone else (who all scored remarkably close to each other). As we started talking about this dynamic a lot of things finally came out. I was seen as pushy, “constantly ripping things apart” simply because I would jump right in and start talking my way through whatever the issue was we were addressing. Everyone else needed to process differently. Long story short, things got a lot easier when I realized before I start ripping something apart I needed to give everyone else at least a day’s warning to give them time to process through the issue on their own, before I start vocalizing things. 

            Sometimes I think we can underestimate the value of understanding group dynamics. The reality is not everyone is like me, which means I can’t just treat them the way I want to be treated.

          • Chris Cornwell

            Wow. That is excellent insight. Thank you!!

          • Shar

            I have found it very difficult and sometimes painful to be honest and open to myself about my flaws regarding this issue.  Because my personality is type A and maybe slightly competitive, it is difficult to set aside how I feel to analyze my leadership.  Soul searching, setting aside one’s pride, and making changes are all difficult activities for many people.  For those individuals who accomplish this, congratulations on your success on becoming an emotionally intelligent individual. 

          • The Finder

            Ditto! I can relate.

          • Melissa Hager Leembruggen

            And it’s not always about temperament either. As a professional communicator I recommend looking at the Strengths Finder 2.0 info along with a temperament test to further understand the team dynamics of where the strengths align in the group. It is interesting how people change when they realize someone is responding in their strength rather than as a personal attack.

            But for me, all of this topic of being “that guy” boils back down to proper communication skills. Our culture thinks communication is natural because we do it all the time, but it is a skill that needs to be taught, learned, and improved upon regularly. My students are always saying, “I didn’t know communication was so hard and complex. I didn’t know I could change how we talk.”

            The same thing applies in the workplace. By creating a healthy supportive communication climate within the 6 key areas, as developed by Gibbs—remain problem oriented, empathetic, provisional, descriptive, spontaneous in responses, and treat all communicators with equality—we would see drastic reductions in the “that guy” kind of leadership.

          • Kenneth Clapp

            Melissa, very true. When people realize that communication is a skill that must be constantly developed and refined it makes a world of difference, in management and beyond. Communication isn’t just about me saying what I think, it’s about me helping other’s understand what I’m trying to communicate.

          • The Finder

            @Kenneth Clapp-great comment…I too found myself in such a situation in ministry and was blown away by the lack of participation in what I thought should have been done. I stayed many years in an unhealthy situation and finally left, never realizing that it could have been me and my views that created the situation in the first place. This was many years ago, I finally learned what God was trying to teach me!

        • The Finder

          so what you are saying is we must have a trickle down mentality when handling people in the workplace? Am I understanding this correctly, if you are intense on a subject/matter/policy, or whatever, do you think everyone should be…..different strokes and all that included?

        • Dave Hearn

          That’s good advice Chris.  I am continually working on this… 

          (but I definitely don’t rip into other people… I just tend to be the guy who ends up doing everyone else’s work)

    • Chris LoCurto

      There’s nothing wrong with being intense and passionate. Unless it turns into anger towards your team. Then it’s a problem. Truly ask those around you that aren’t afraid to tell you the truth. A “yes man” is of no value to you with his opinion. 

      • Dave Hearn

        Thanks Chris.  It’s never anger… mostly frustration… and I’m not the sort that complains, I will just pick up where the person I delegated to stopped work and then I will get the job done.  At least I know it will get done.  

        It slows down the process considerably, since I’ll be doing my work and theirs.

    • L2hess

      Maybe try to remember that intensity can be a little scary when you’re on the receiving end of it. I think passion is appreciated when people know that ‘s what they’re dealing with.

      • Dave Hearn

        Yes.  Again, the key is communication.  I need to better communicate the overall vision and my passion on the subject/task/project.

  • W. Mark Thompson

    UGH! Good list. Good thoughts. Could have used them in my earlier years when I was managing a team. Ha! Could have been helpful. Watched the video on youtube with you and Dave Ramsey. Good to be introduced to you, Chris. Blessings. 

    • Chris LoCurto

      Thank you! It is an honor to be a guest blogger today!

  • Dylan Dodson

    I would want “that guy” to know he was “that guy!” :)

    But simply asking those around you for feedback is not only helpful, but they will notice (and probably be surprised) by your humility.

  • Chris LoCurto

    Ripping is never a good thing. Nobody stands on the sidelines and says, “Wow. He’s a great leader ’cause he just ripped our heads off.” It doesn’t grow your leadership. Instead, discover WHY you feel you need to rip on people. If they’re not getting the job done, why is that? What are you not doing to help them succeed? There is where you should find your answer.

    Just remember, ripping people only hurts you as a leader, it NEVER makes people think your great. Unless their style is to rip as well. :-)

    • Jmhardy97

      I agree, I do not believe that loosing your cool or ripping people does any good. It may make you feel better for 30 seconds, but when the time is over, you have fences that need mending.


  • Connie Brown

    You make a good point about how a leadership style or attitude can squash followers from taking risks. If it doesn’t feel safe, people may choose to only do what is required. They may not feel it is worth it to get in trouble.

    If a leader can tolerate, or better yet value, a reasonable range of differences and communicate that, some innovative ideas may find space to grow in that culture. People rewarded for trying to contribute extra, even if the idea itself isn’t a winner, may try again.

    If people get the feeling that only conforming is safe, they’ll stop trying to do otherwise, no matter what the leader says he thinks he wants.

    • Dylan Dodson

      Very true. Fear of a leader can really kill any creativity from the rest of the team.

    • Joe Abraham

      I like what you said about conforming. Rather than pressurizing to conform, leaders need to help people accomplish the vision of the organization by releasing them to be what they are.

      • Connie Brown

        Yes. Creatives, like me, like to work under this kind of leader who values, trusts and honors others, within reasonable limits.

  • Chris LoCurto

    Very true! And, once you discover those issues, you’re more likely to calm down. Which in turn, takes a ton of stress off of feeling like you have to always be ready to rip somebody’s head off. 

  • Dave Webb

    O.K., the diagnosis you outlined was comprehensive, but once the prognosis confirms you’ve got the disease, what’s the cure? Are there treatments known to be effective, or is it terminal? What can I do, Doc?

    • Chris LoCurto

      BAHHH!!!! Nice!! You then need to figure out what it is that’s causing you to react that way. If you feel your team is incompetent, why?  If they are, you need to focus your energy on making them successful. What does it take to make them competent? If it’s not them, what in your life is causing you to lose it? Either way, you have to get to the root of the problem, then attack that.

      EVERYTHING rises and falls on leadership.

    • Melissa Hager Leembruggen

      Here’s my diagnosis from my response to another conversation here:

      But for me, all of this topic of being “that guy” boils back down to
      proper communication skills. Our culture thinks communication is natural
      because we do it all the time, but it is a skill that needs to be
      taught, learned, and improved upon regularly. My students are always
      saying, “I didn’t know communication was so hard and complex. I didn’t
      know I could change how we talk.”

      The same thing applies in the
      workplace. By creating a healthy supportive communication climate within
      the 6 key areas, as developed by Gibbs—remain problem oriented,
      empathetic, provisional, descriptive, spontaneous in responses, and
      treat all communicators with equality—we would see drastic reductions in
      the “that guy” kind of leadership.

  • John Richardson

    There are two types of leaders. 

    One cares only about himself. He is always looking in a mirror.

    One truly cares about his team. He views life through a looking glass.

    The guy with the mirror can’t see forward, just reflections. 

    He is always paranoid that someone will take his job.

    The guy with the looking glass can see far ahead.

    The looking glass become a magnifying glass, building his people up.

    The guy with the mirror soon runs into an obstacle. He can’t move forward. He can’t see ahead.

    The guy with the looking glass can see far ahead, and with his team, can move ahead fast.

    One goes forward.

    One stops.

    Which type of leader are you?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I hope you have blogged on that, John. THAT is definitely a blog post.

      • John Richardson

        I actually did back in 2009…

        • W. Mark Thompson

          Just read your post, John. Love it! Excellent addition to the thought here. Thanks for sharing!

        • Dylan Dodson

          Great post!

    • Chris LoCurto

      Excellent! If your focus is on you, you will only lead in a way to make you successful. If it’s on your team, you will lead to make THEM successful, which in turn, as a natural result, will make you successful. 

      • Connie Brown

        So true. And people notice this and they respond accordingly.

    • Travis Dommert

      I like this analogy, but I would suggest the can be a third type at work.  Not self-absorbed whatsoever, but rough on his team nonetheless.  Akin to the person described in the blog post.  Perhaps he’s looking thru the ‘looking glass’…way ahead, but not aware that he is stepping all over his team.  

      He doesn’t pull the looking glass away to see what is close at hand…a team who needs his direction, constructive challenge, encouragement, and praise.  He is not plugged into his own role, the power of his words, and the potential for collateral damage in pursuit of the long term vision.

      We nearly had an intervention with a previous ceo, to insist that he bring in a coo or someone to deal with the day-to-day…or he was going to lose his whole leadership team. His charisma and vision were infectious, but his temper and sharp tongue were crushing.  

      He nearly dismissed it, disbelieving that he could be going over so poorly or that it even mattered much.  He’d say “this isn’t about me!”…and it wasn’t.  But the stifling intimidation he created made our success very much about him.  It took some key departures to get the message thru.

      I don’t think he was looking in the mirror.

      • John Richardson

        Great point, Travis. While leadership styles differ, the self centered person will usually hit a road block and turn around to find that no one is following. The charismatic team builder may be a good leader, with lots of followers, but lack the skills or experience to guide the team in the right direction. In your example it sounds like the leader needed to learn how to motivate and work with people. Definitely an aquired skill.

    • Jmhardy97

      Great message John, I wrote this down and I am going to share it with my team on Monday.


  • Cynthia Herron

    What’s truly sad, Chris, is that in this economic climate so many people can’t just jump ship or move on when they have an overbearing leader or decision-making board at the helm. Simply put, they HAVE to keep their jobs to put bread on the table. I’ve been very blessed to have great leaders, but I know there are probably thousands out there who’d rather just wake up and pull their covers back over their heads than go to an eight-hour-a-day job where a dictator reigns.

    Thanks for your challenge today! I feel it’s applicable to all of life.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Great point Cynthia! And as much as they don’t want to, a lot of these people can lead in the other direction. Slowly, cautiously, but they can help a leader to see their faults. Mainly by asking the leader what it is that would relieve the stress that they are feeling. If they can discover the root, they might be able to help solve the problem. But most importantly, if I’m ripping people, and someone begins to ask questions as to why, I’ll start to realize I’m being a jerk.  

      Won’t work in every situation though. If it’s someone who is just stressed, it has a good chance. If it’s someone who does it out of force of habit, could be dangerous. :-)

    • TNeal

      I see your point and recognize the tough situation many are in. Jon Acuff in his book “Quitter” helps put a more positive spin on those jobs we have to grind out. I think he maintains a realistic perspective based on his own work experience trying to move from his day job to his dream job. I’d recommend his book (although I’m only a third of the way through it) for a person in the situation you offer as both an example and a reality.–Tom

      • Jmhardy97

        Good points.


  • Daniel Decker

    Great post Chris!

    • Chris LoCurto

      Thanks Daniel! I really appreciate it!!

  • Anonymous

    On my blog, I’m gearing up for a challenge called Pray Truth, challenging wives to be daily praying Scripture for their husbands, so my mind is focused on that subject right now. But as I was reading your post, which is very timely and helpful for leaders, I just kept thinking how pertinent it is to marriage relationships.

    Our words are so powerful. As women, we want our husbands to step up and be a leader in our marriages, and yet for many of them, each time they turn around our words condescend or criticize or nag. “When {our husbands} are made to feel like all they can do is fail, they won’t try to succeed….if they can’t ever make {us} happy and all they get is friction their minds tell them to stop doing so many things that leave them vulnerable to a verbal flogging.” 

    The same is also true of husbands toward wives.

    Our words matter. The tone in which we speak them, matters. We have the power to build up or tear down and what we do with that power can make or break our spouse and the marriage we dream of.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Wow! Great comment!! So many people don’t understand this. I would love to read this post. 

    • Joe Abraham

      This is so true. And the principle works well in all interpersonal relationships.

    • Rda1705

      Wow!!! Thank you so much for putting this into perspective for me! I’m”that wife” … My husband is I pastor and I unfortunately hear all the complaining and whining from “that person” in the congregation…and I tend to feed on that! I will make it a point to lift up my husband with MY words! Thanks again!

    • TNeal

      My wife does well in this area and I’m improving. Actually I find her example of speaking well of me and to me plants some pretty powerful seeds in my heart. They grow easily and find opportunity to become fruitful on a daily basis. Her words return to her in my affirmations. She is wonderful and I am blessed. Thank you for your wise words of sound counsel.–Tom

    • Jmhardy97

      Thank you for sharing I just read your blog. A very good message.


  • Michelle Clarke

    I have worked for “that guy” and just recently left my job because of him.  His presence is like poison to his staff and he is losing so many good people.  I would want him to know that he has damaged his people beyond recognition.  A few of us have left, but so many will stay…and he will continue to beat them down until there’s nothing left of them. It’s heartbreaking really. The saddest part is is that he has no idea what he is doing to them.  He’s too busy looking in the mirror instead of the looking glass.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Unfortunately, that person won’t get it until someone he respects tells him about it. I have watched so many leaders like that come up with excuses as to why the people left, so they can feel better.

      • Melissa Hager Leembruggen

        Let’s be honest. It’s a sin in managing our personal relationships that we are talking about. If we put God first, and deal with others more humbly, we will respond appropriately when someone confronts us about a lapse in judgement regarding our behavior—whether they are someone already respected or not.

  • Rob T

    I think a person has to be in touch with what their “dark side of leadership” is.  beyond just asking your team, you really need to have some trusted people by your side that are willing to tell you bluntly when you are falling into it.  thanks for the post.

    • Chris LoCurto

      I totally agree. It helps to get those people in your circle early on.

    • Jmhardy97

      Anytime someone talks about their dark side of leadership, I start getting nervous. It never seems to lead to good things.


      • Rob T

        Jim, I’m exactly the opposite.  If a person does not admit and talk about their dark side of leadership, that’s when I get nervous.  Everyone has a sinful nature, it’s best to get clean about it so that we can maintain consistant victory with God’s help.

  • Joe Abraham

    Thanks Chris for this helpful post.

    While reading this, I was reminded of a pastor I worked with for sometime who was just like “that guy”. He was, in fact, a good man. But his wife wanted him to be like her pastor. So he tried to act like that man and he failed miserably. Meanwhile he hurt many of his faithful people and thought they were the real problem!

    I think often insecurity plays a major role in such situations. I believe leaders need to learn the important lesson that most of their people (team members/church members) love them sincerely and rejoice to see them flourish in their call as God has wired them. They don’t need to be insecure. Then they would be able to release their people to do what they are gifted to do.

    By the way, thanks Michael for posting this. Your guest post selections are truly great.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Insecurity is HUGE! It’s one of the main reasons leaders fail. When a leaders is secure, they focus on their team. When they’re not, they focus on self. Great comment!

    • TNeal

      Whether I’ve served as a pastor or worked on a manuscript as an author, I find myself influenced by the examples of others. The challenge is finding your own voice and having the confidence to speak/write/lead in your unique style. Good examples and bad examples are worth learning from but not worth imitating or avoiding. It takes life’s lessons to become comfortable in your own skin. Appreciate your observations, Joe. Thanks–Tom

      • Chris LoCurto

        That’s why they teach history in school, right? So we do the stuff that was good, and don’t repeat the bad. ;-)

        • TNeal

          Yep! And that’s why smart people read biographies (I was smart in middle school).

  • L2hess

    My immediate boss (who is NOT that person) says she has to let her wild horses run. By that, she means avoiding the temptation to micromanage and trusting the people she hired to do what they know how to do. There are guidelines and parameters, of course, but she assumes that we were hired because we know what we’re doing, not the opposite. She resists the temptation to procedurize every last process, because that just bogs us down in paperwork and further limits the time we have to do our jobs.

    I wish more leaders believed the axiom that you can catch more flies with honey (real honey, not the artificially-sweetened variety) than vinegar. Vinegar just leaves everyone feeling a little sour, which is definitely not conducive to effectiveness or creativity.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Sounds like a good leader. At EntreLeadership I teach that you micromanage the daylights out of the first 90 day/probationary period, then you begin to let the rope out. And what we call micromanaging is not standing over someone’s shoulder asking, “Did you do it? Did you do it?” Instead, it’s being there to ask if there is anything else they need to make them successful.

      • Jmhardy97

        Thank you for the tips Chris. I will pass this on.


    • TNeal

      Good observations with a “sweet” sense of humor at the end. Chris’s comments add to your boss’s excellent example.–Tom

    • Jmhardy97

      I would agree with your boss. I learned the hard way. I micromanaged and put in 80-90 hours a week. Then when I took time off, everything feel apart. You have to delegate and trust others. That is the only way you will be successful.


  • Joe Lalonde

    Chris, I’ve worked for a few of “those guys” and my wife currently works for one “that guy”. There’s a couple of things we would like them to know.

    1. Demoralizing your staff does not increase productivity. It makes me want to throw in the towel and walk away from the job.

    2. If you want to knock me down for not stepping up my game, please step yours up first. It is frustrating to see have my boss criticizing me for not performing when he is not performing well either.

    3. Stop with the doom and gloom. Bringing a positive attitude to the workplace will help encourage everyone else.

    • Joe Abraham

      Truly insightful, Joe. I specially like your 2nd point. Leaders need to grow before they expect their people to grow.

      • Joe Lalonde

        Joe, thanks for the comment.

        Once leaders show a desire for growth in their own life, those under them typically start their path towards improvement.

    • Chris LoCurto

      You couldn’t be more correct! 

  • Deanna Johns Nichols

    I have worked for “that guy,” and I want him to know that I am not motivated by fear, intimidation, or shame. I am motivated to work harder and better for someone who trusts me, does not micromanage, and who rewards faithfulness and excellence. If I know my boss appreciates me and stands with me, I will always have his back and go the extra mile for him.

    • Joe Abraham

      I agree with you Deanna. It’s those leaders who consider their people smart get smart results.

    • Chris LoCurto

      The person you described is what we would call a high dominant. They control their environment with a threat of fear. You on the other hand, sound to me to be a high amiable. You are loyal to those who in your eyes deserve it. If the dominant ever understands that about you, and adjusts their fear based approach, I bet you would be their best team member.

      But I could be wrong. :-)

      • TNeal

        Chris, your comments remind me of Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages,” a classic on how to give and receive love. Words of affirmation go a long way in my wife’s world whether it’s what I say as her husband or what others say at work. I have a pastor friend who speaks that language as well. If you want to kill his passion for a few days, just tell him, “You’re not working hard enough.”

    • W. Mark Thompson

      I have worked for that guy too. In my case, it was a bit of a gastalt-type situation. He was really nice until he thought you should be yelled at and taken to a personal beat down. Really catches you off guard. Wasn’t sure what to do with that kind of person at first. But wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s cruel and abusive. (Yes. It was that harsh.) 

  • UU-leader

    I have learned a lot from John McKnight’s book The Abundant Community, which reminds us that church meetings & relationships should draw on a different set of values and commitments than we might have learned at work. 

    Church relationships allow for our fallibility and acknowledges the real life that is always part of us: our personal joys and sorrows are not intrusions but part of who we bring to any meeting.   I like that we begin with a check-n, because even though it takes up a lot of time, it also reminds me that we’re all volunteers and we all have a lot of stuff going on in our lives, so that we can be gentle with each other.

    I also like to think about how to create a space where all of ourselves in allowed.  As McKnight points out, the message we get from work is “do better, do better, produce more and faster or you’ll be judged”; the message we get from working in an abundant community is “you are great, we like to be with you, we appreciate what you can bring, we don’t expect you to be perfect.”   I like working in a place that allows me to be fully present and puts those relationships first.  (And we do get things done, too.  It’s not either/or; it’s just that “efficiency” does not trump being compassionate.)

    • TNeal

      Jeremie Kubicek in his book “Leadership is Dead” would mirror your thoughts except he wouldn’t demarcate between the church world and the business world. Working through a relational model rather than a transactional model leads toward healthy practices in both worlds.

      • UU Leader

         I strive to use the compassionate model in both places, and I think McKnight would endorse that too.  He makes the distinction because most workplaces are systems set up to value efficiency and don’t allow for fallibility whereas in “abundant communities,” the compassionate values can guide us more readily.

        • TNeal

          I like the term “abundant communities.” Kubicek comments on a scarcity vs. abundant mentality. It’s the latter that frees us to focus outside our own agendas and allows us to serve and influence others. McKnight’s book sounds like one to add to the reading list.

      • Jmhardy97

        I just read this book and it makes some really good examples of leadership, relationships and the transforamtion happening in the world today.


  • Val Cole Barnes

    I am working for “that Guy”. If I could tell him anything, I would tell him “I’m sorry”. And I mean that, I am sorry that he watched bad leader after bad leader rise up in our work place, spreading paranoia, and hatred. I am sorry that is what he was fed. And I believe that under different circumstances, the right leadership, he could be a good boss. I think it is too bad that this cycle will continue. I would like to tell you that I can always see him with grace, but that would be too big of a lie!
    Great post, and great thoughts!  

    • TNeal

      Interesting take on your part. Appreciate both how you offer grace and how you acknowledge your own limitations. Thanks for the honesty.

  • Cathy

    I had a boss who was not evil but micro managed so much that before I took a move,  I  kept second guessing trying to figure the exact way the boss would do it. Nothing  of consequence got done and I got yelled by the boss anyways.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I have worked for that guy!  Lead by fear and threats.  He pulled the termination threat out on every little mistake and used to seriously over micro-manage.  I eventually got tired of it and so did every one else.  The company lost over 30 years of experience in one office within the course of about 3 months.  They hired several others after that and then lost those after they only worked there for a month or two.  I moved on and felt so much better off after getting away from the bully boss!

  • Chris LoCurto

    I believe there has to be a balance between the two. I’ve been behind the scenes of a lot of churches, and the thing that frustrates me is so many have a lack of excellence. Therefore, some churches allow the opposite of what my posts talks about. Where people aren’t held accountable for doing better. So I think you’re absolutely right in what’s needed, with a certain amount of, “But let’s be excellent while we do it.” Does that make sense?

  • Chris LoCurto

    Wow! Yeah, I know where you’re coming from. I was in that situation once where me being a good guy, and leaderships fear clashed! I think no matter what, you have to continue to be the good guy. For me it’s all about integrity. 

  • Chris LoCurto

    Hahaha…that stinks! Wow! If they only knew how bad their leadership was keeping work from happening. Which is with all leaders like this. 

  • Kenneth Clapp

    The problem most leaders have in inspiring the “extra mile” is remembering the fact that the leader is part of the them. I say this having come from both sides – leader as well as follower. For too many leaders success is credited to the leader, failure to the team. As leader’s we should ask ourselves – why should my team go the extra mile and not simply do what they’ve been paid to do – 9 to 5 then home? Have we allowed them to have any ownership, any sense of accomplishment? 

    There’s also another question you can ask to see if you as the leader are the problem, “Am I perceived as someone who goes the ‘extra mile’ for my team?” This is different than going the extra mile for the project, that can simply be self-serving. I mean, do your team members see you as someone who will go the extra mile for them personally if the situation called for it? If not, then what right do you as a leader have to expect the “extra mile” from your employees? They are paid to do their job. “Extra” has to be inspired, not simply demanded.

    • Chris LoCurto

       Great comments Kenneth!!

  • TNeal

    Chris–Good post. Now I’m afraid to talk to my wife. Thanks! I read a good book that covers this topic more thoroughly–“Leadership is Dead” by Jeremie Kubicek.–Tom

    • Chris LoCurto

       HAHAHA….don’t be afraid Tom. Soften her up first, and then ask. Hopefully it will come out at least a little more gentle. LOL

  • Deborah Connolly

    Great points here, this cuts to the core of collaboration.  If you do not have people who feel they are contributing value, then you are actually not doing YOUR JOB as a leader or a manager to cultivate the best team.  It is harder path to be honest but if you are creative and inspiring you are also probably able to find a way to motivate and generate sincere results from your team.  

    Deborah Connolly

    • Chris LoCurto

      That’s absolutely true. And if you’re not ripping people, you have a better chance of motivating and inspiring them. :-)

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    It all depends on the leadership style. When a servant leader shows the way and trust his team, they will respond selflessly. It’s all trust vs. suspicion. Many times followers do not go extra mile simply because of the leaders’ arrogant  and autocratic style.

  • Jojax

    I am working for ‘that guy’ right now.  I am also doing everything I can to get out of here.

    The environment is unbelievably disempowering.  The amazing thing is how many people accept it and stick around – I put it down to one part-Stockholm syndrome and one part “they don’t know any better” (have spent the majority of their working lives here and figure this is just the way things are.

    This is my first job in Christian ministry and every day I find myself praying for understanding – why does God want me here and what am I meant to be learning through this?  So far He has been silent to the point where I am thinking I misheard my calling to here in the first place.

    • Kenneth Clapp

      Jojax, unfortunately ministry can often be one of those places that promote poor leadership and overbearing leaders. I’ve been there, I know. I also know that I would not be half the leader I am today without some of those experiences. Not that I would wish them on anyone, but remember, God can teach through a negative example just like he can through a positive example. Sometimes what I learned was simply what I didn’t want to do or be like. Doesn’t sound like much, but that can actually be a rather profound discovery, especially when you get specific. It’s not just, “I don’t want to be like that person.” It’s, “I don’t want to do this…or react this way…or handle this kind of situation like this…”. The second thing I was rather slow to learn was that dealing with poor leadership taught me the hard parts of leadership. How do you handle an overbearing, negative person? What are good ways to move them beyond their negativity even though they see themselves in the dominant position?  Even when you are seemingly at the top you face constant criticism and negativity. And it doesn’t matter how high you climb, there will always be someone above you, that you will have to answer to. As painful as it might be, you are actually in a position to grow tremendously, if you can maintain your attitude and calm (which is a lot easier to say than do, I know.)

      • Jojax14

        Thanks. That response is an answer to my prayer!

      • Jojax14

        Hi Kenneth,

        I have had a few hours to reflect on what you have said now.  While I do accept there is much to learn in this situation, I also consider the cost.  Not in terms of the emotional toll it may take on me, but I am concerned that some character traits may ‘rub off’ on me.  My biggest worry is that one day I may accept the things I today see as wrong as just ‘the way things are done’.  

        Do you have any advice for staying alert to this subtle but significant change in my attitude.

        • Kenneth Clapp

          Jojax, first, never underestimate the emotional toll on yourself. Even though difficult situations can be used for positive growth – there is a limit. One of the main reasons (and from everything I’ve ever seen or heard it’s THE MAIN reason) people leave ministry is difficulty with those in positions of leadership over them. If you don’t take stock of the emotional toll a situation is taking it can and will eventually lead to burn out. As to when that line is crossed, only you can say. I and just about every other minister I have ever known have at one time or another had to look to God for a new direction and a new opportunity when the toll began to add to the point we were no longer fruitful in the positions in which we were ministring. Of course, that sad, I can also say you don’t want to leave too early either. Doing that once is my biggest professional regret.

          As far as worrying about some character trait’s “rubbing off,” I think you are taking the right approach already. Try to remain self aware. Never hesitate to stop and rethink a reaction. Make your personal growth (spiritual as well as professional) a constant priority. And I know this sounds very cliche’d but be careful to always prioritize you own personal devotional and Bible time. In ministry it’s very easy to let our ministry double as our personal time. That’s a mistake. You need to be sure to make time every day to spend time in God’ word, just you and Him, with no other reason than your own growth and maturity. If you do that then I can promise God will be much more likely to rub off on you than anyone you work with :)

          I know this isn’t much of an answer, only some suggestions, but the reality is there are seldom easy or even clear cut answers, especially when you start evaluating your ministry and the work you do. And just FYI, sometimes your greatest ministry accomplishment may not be the area for which you were hired, but the effect your spirit has on those you minister with.

          God bless and keep up the good fight :)

  • Virtual Agents

    Great article, sharing those list and thoughts will really helps a lot. Nice to know that there are still people who can share great helpful things.

  • Alan Kay

    There are ways to get helpful answers about your leadership from
    the people around you.  Simply
    asking them about what’s wrong with your approach will likely yield a laundry
    list you can’t fix. Instead, ask them;

    What do you appreciate about my leadership style and behaviors?

    needs to get better?

    one thing should I focus on?

    I make progress on that, how will it be helpful to you and others around me?

    advice do you have about where I might begin?

    you mind telling me when you see me making progress on this opportunity?

    If you ask this of a few people
    at the start and try some of the small steps right away, you will find that
    some of the big steps happen sooner. 

  • Alan Kay

    p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 13.0px 0.0px; line-height: 19.0px; font: 13.0px Georgia}

    Great points for the self-aware leader. There are also ways to get helpful answers about your leadership from the people around you.  Asking them about what’s wrong with your approach may yield a laundry list so try asking them;

    – What do you appreciate about my leadership style and behaviors?

    – What needs to get better?

    – What one thing should I focus on?

    – Suppose I make progress on that, how will it be helpful to you and others around me?

    – What advice do you have about where I might begin?

    – Would you mind telling me when you see me making progress on this opportunity?

    If you ask this of a few people at the start and try some of the small steps right away, you will find that some of the big steps happen sooner.

  • Kwcurrie

    Often leaders ask questions and then proceed to answer it themselves. Their “underlings” are then put in a position of disagreeing or at least being quite awkward. My tip: Ask a question and then listen.

  • The Finder

    Excellent read and good business sense. We must all take a moment and check ourselves. I like to look in the mirror and say to myself what I intend to say to my people, that way I can check my reaction and know where I am wrong and many times, I am wrong….thanks for reminding me how to build a successful team and handle leadership better.

  • Monique

    “That guy” for me was actually “that girl”. I became friends with her before her promotion, and even contemplated moving in with her. At first, I was really happy she was my boss, but then I started seeing that her insecurities hindered the entire team (including me) creatively.

    If I could tell her one thing, it would be this: Don’t be intimidated by the good ideas your employees have. Just because the “greatest idea ever” didn’t come from you, don’t strike it down. A good leader realizes she doesn’t know everything. Instead, she’s able to 1.) recognize the talents of the people on her staff and 2.) implement those talents to enhance the department and ultimately her own reputation.

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  • James Randorff

    Have I ever worked for “that guy”?  I’m in the military… the question, more often than not, is, “When have I ever NOT worked for ‘that guy’?”

    The above really isn’t fair, because I have worked for a few really great leaders.  I have also worked for some not-so-great leaders who still weren’t bullies.

    The bullies I have worked for (and there have been several, because the military command structure often rewards them for their perceived ‘Alpha’ status) taught me a lot about what happens when you treat your team members like inferiors.  You end up with people who do just enough to complete their assigned tasks… and not a self-motivated step beyond that.

    What would I want them to know?  For starters, this: “Your career will only last you, tops, 30 years.  After that, your life is no longer based on an arbitrary rank structure, but on the relationships you have forged and the skills you have developed.  Right now, you have done neither very well, and your future is suffering because of it.  If that is what you want for yourself, I’m not one to stop you, but you are making the futures of others suffer for it as well.  STOP IT NOW!!!”

  • Beyond Horizons

    Great post! Abrasive leadership can definitely affect the performance of a team!

    I especially like #1 about asking a spouse (or someone close to you) about their opinion. They will tend to tell you the truth, which you might not get from your employees.

    – Sindoora (

  • Anonymous

    Great post and yes I have worked for that person.  In the end, I relied on the fact that I cannot control the other person and their actions, I can only control what I do and my reactions and I have used that to aid me as I tried guide the choppy waters of trubulance.

  • Katie Fassl

    Chris, you are so spot-on, with this post.  Especially when you say, “When you keep your team in a constant state of shell shock, you can’t expect them to take risks. They know that if they do, there is a chance they will get punished for failure, which leads to more tongue lashings.”

    A couple of years ago, I left a job solely because of my bully boss.  At a time in my career when I really could’ve soared with the right mentoring, I was discouraged by overwhelming negativity.  One of his most often used phrases was, “Well, I’m not asking you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”  Rather coming off as, “Hey, I’m one of you.  I’m on your team,” it came across as condescending and critical.  One-by-one each and every person on my team quit.

    I see experiences like this as ones that help us develop and grow.  I’m now in a leadership position, and I try to remain conscious of how things I say and do affect my team.  Even so, this post is a great reminder to keep things in check.  Thanks again!

  • Bret Mavrich

    Totally unrelated, but I almost used this EXACT image for my post on how to effectively communicate your mission/vision in a way that gets others on board.  I went with something a little different, though:

  • turner_bethany

    Another question I would ask is if expectations have been clearly communicated. There was post on Simple Marriage It talks about expectations with a spouse, but some of the same principles can definitely be applied to work teams as well. 

  • Bart Leger

    Ouch! That hurts. But thanks, because I need to be continually be reminded that I tend to be a little overbearing at times as a leader because I’m impatient. A good wake up check. Thanks again.

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  • Brent

    I think that often times someone becomes “that guy/gal” because they want things to be “fabulous” or “amazing” or at the very least criticism-proof, instead of hitting the mark and being appropriate for the need.

    I had a manager who wanted everything we did to be kind of like the taj mahal. He was quite terrified of failure. He didn’t see it that way at all. I know he didn’t because I ended up approaching him about that fear and what it was doing to all of us–eight times over the course of about two years. Didn’t help a bit, and it certainly didn’t endear him to me or anyone else who approached him.

    Bottom Line: it’s very easy for “that guy” to be in full denial over why they do what they do. They claim to want what’s right and best, but they really want everyone to say “wow!”

    And society doesn’t help matters any. It’s the “high achievers” who get the accolades both in business and in the church. 

  • Mrs. Jones

    I confess i am that guy that does not see the positive in my juniors. I have learnt a lot from this blog and i will work hard to change my attitude.

  • Lisa Colon DeLay

    It really is a *discipline* to not be overcome by emotions and circumstances and digress to our base self as we lead and encounter troubles. If the temperament isn’t there or the personal experience of having good mentors is absent…then it’s an uphill battle… (I’m learning this through my leadership development at the grad school level, where we had to construct a personal leadership history assessment of both leading and following experiences and the emotions surrounding them)

    I think the change best happens with the attitude of a learner. As we pray for help in this I think God uses his Holy Spirit to change us….the best Coach of all, right? :) and then we stand a fighting chance to develop out of immaturity.

    Great content as usual!