Why People Fire Their Leaders – And How To Stop It

People quit people, not companies.

–John Maxwell

I remember my first job out of college. I was excited and filled with great enthusiasm. But it played out like A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. I was surrounded by people I genuinely liked with many friends. With a great team in place, we made great strides in the community we served. But I had “the boss from hell” who made life hell. So, I fired him.

An article in Inc. magazine identified the top 5 characteristics that caused employees to leave their jobs. They are:

  • Management style — 37 percent
  • Condescending attitude — 30 percent
  • Mean or bad temper — 30 percent
  • Inappropriate behavior — 26 percent
  • Harassed employees — 24 percent

Speaking of bad boss behavior, here is a sampling of what respondents called unacceptable or deal-breaking behaviors: Your boss takes credit for your work 63%, your boss doesn’t trust or empower you 62%; your boss doesn’t care if you’re overworked 58%, your boss doesn’t advocate for you when it comes to compensation 57%, your boss hires and/or promotes the wrong people 56%, your boss doesn’t provide proper direction on assignments/roles 54%, your boss micromanages and doesn’t allow you “freedom to work” 53%, etc.

When you look at the above examples of why people leave their work or the characteristics of bad bosses, one thing is certain – there is a leadership gap.  As it relates to employee engagement, bad bosses, company morale, and corporate culture, how the leadership gap is addressed going forward is critical. A boss without strong leadership skills will drive his or he people away.

I’ve said it in this space before: Building the type of organization that your people would never dream of leaving begins by being the type of leader everyone wants to follow. Let’s explore three basic ways in which you can build that type of culture.

Serve your people

The higher you ascend in your organization the more responsibilities you take on – not more rights. This is where many a boss drops the leadership ball. Think of a pyramid. The old way of thinking is that at the bottom you have many rights and at the top, few responsibilities. Now flip it- when you do, the opposite becomes true. You now have more responsibilities as the leader/boss and fewer rights. Now, start acting like it.

You will build the type of organization people would never dream of leaving when you develop the mindset of servant leadership and by empowering your people at every opportunity. 

Empower your people

Employee engagement is directly tied to empowered employees. The cited survey, along with many others drive this point home. If your people are micromanaged, underappreciated, and not given credit for their ideas and work, is it any wonder they are firing their bosses?

Billy Hornsby said, “ It’s okay to let those you lead outshine you, for if they shine brightly enough, they reflect positively on you”. The boss who makes for a good leader understands that when his or her people are empowered it makes them look good. You will build the type of organization they would never dream of leaving when you empower them to reach their full potential.

Engage your people

Employee engagement is only as meaningful and effective as the leader who engages on this level. The boss who only sees employee engagement as something “they do” may have the work of his employees’ hands, but will never have their hearts.

If you want to stop your people from walking out the door, then you must open yours. You must be among your people, know your people, and serve them.

Building the type of organization people would never dream of leaving begins when you understand that they are the most appreciable asset you have. Simply put, employee engagement begins at the top.

Final Thoughts

There’s no way in this space to take a deep dive into all of the issues that need to be addressed here. But engaged and invested people need to step up and help right the ship. What role will you play in closing the back door and helping build the type of culture no one would ever dream of leaving?


Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences. Doug is a John Maxwell Team member.

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  1. A capable leader should be committed to developing a corporate culture of partnership and belonging.
    Belonging is an emotional and psychological factor. When there is a sense of belonging, there is commitment, a clear identity, the desire to do better and a sense of responsibility e ability.
    For this purpose it is necessary to share the same “creed”. It is essential that the entire corporate group believes in what the company does, has the same corporate purpose. This translates into sharing the vision, loving what the company does and recognizing oneself in values and beliefs.
    Promote the competence, meritocracy, desire of employees to grow and contribute.
    Promote an internal communication that involves. Collaborators, if listened to and called into question (when possible) in decision-making processes, develop the sense of belonging that serves to make a difference.