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.

I had flashbacks to those early days after reading the findings in a study in Inc. that highlighted the worst boss behaviors. The Top 5 characteristics that caused employees to leave their jobs were:

  • 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 breakers: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.

“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” has been a mantra of John Maxwell for years. And as it relates to employee engagement, bad bosses, company morale, and corporate culture, he is spot on. 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 micro managed, 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.


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. Great article. Leaders should flip the hierarchy upside down. The higher you are the more people you support. The old adage of making a boss look good should be a good boss should make their employees look good.

  2. Great advice as always, but I would like add a “positive”consideration.
    It is easy to see how a bad leader can have an extremely negative impact within the organization, causing not only many everyday management problems and tension in the workplace, but also high levels of employee turnover. But although it may seem a contradiction, the positive aspect is there, and be employed by a bad boss can really be advantageous in certain respects, favoring the development of certain personal skills and even preparing for the management of any managerial position future. Certainly we learn what we should not do, we are forced to self-motivate yourself and to improve communication skills, we also learn to resolve interpersonal conflicts but, more importantly, one can get to gain leadership positions.