Leader or Leech? 5 Ways to Tell.

leech leaders leadership

Some “leaders” are just flat-out leeches. Leech leaders, if you will.

Kind of a gross mental picture, to be sure; but given that this type of leader can suck the very lifeblood out of an organization, leech leader seems apropos.

You can tell a lot about leaders by how they treat an organization. Is the organization there for their benefit? Or are the leaders there to serve the organization? There’s a huge difference, and it’s pretty easy to tell the difference if you look hard enough.

Here are five ways to pick out a leech who’s masquerading as a leader.

1. Leech leaders use their organizations simply as vehicles to attract the spotlight for themselves.

Is the organization just a platform for the leader to trumpet his/her accomplishments? (Quick FYI: I wrote the post I just linked to in the last sentence two years ago…well before somebody’s foray into politics.) It’ll be easy to tell, because these leaders are often fairly obvious in their attempts to do what it takes to be in the spotlight. Believe it or not, these leaders may even say out loud that they want the accolades from others.

2. Leech leaders fight for their own salary increases and perks harder than they do for anyone else’s (if they fight for anyone else’s at all).

Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying there’s not a place for folks to make a case for why they deserve a salary increase. I’m not saying that at all. But I do think it’s pretty telling if the only person that a leader goes to bat for as it relates to a salary increase is the leader him/herself. Leeches spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over their salary, complain about their salary to anyone who will listen, and are rarely not trying to figure out a way to get more money out of their organization. Do they extend that same effort to their teammates? Do they go to great lengths to see other hard-working colleagues rewarded in similar ways? No.

3. Leech leaders receive more of their praise from people *outside* the team or organization than the people who actually have to work for them.

Now think about this. What does it tell us if a hypothetical leader gets accolades, but most, if not all, of those accolades come from folks *outside* the organization? Wouldn’t it be a better sign if people inside the organization — and especially that leader’s team — were the ones raving about that leader’s leadership? If that’s not the case — if the only recognition that a leader gets is coming from outside the organization — might that not hint at the possibility that the only folks who think the leader is good are the ones who don’t actually experience his/her leadership? Hmmm…

4. When listening to leech leaders talk, they often talk about what more the organization should be doing for them in the way of perks, higher pay, travel, etc. Rarely, if ever, do you hear them commenting on or asking others how they can better learn, grow, and serve the organization and its employees.

This is a clear indicator of an immature, selfish, narcissistic mindset. Contrast that with examples of great leadership, where you often see leaders more concerned with embracing humility and serving others. I think we both know which one is ultimately going to be more successful.

5. Leech leaders are more concerned with controlling their team than serving them.

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s also typically pretty obvious. Leaders who control are just using the team and the organization to get what they want, and these leaders are often not afraid to use manipulative or even abusive means to do so (though these leaders will almost always do these things in such a way that it avoids detection, and they will certainly be ready to rationalize away any issues that happen to bubble up concerning their leadership).

[bctt tweet=”Poor leaders are more concerned with controlling their teams than serving them. #leadership”]

I used the leech analogy on purpose. Someone in a leadership role who is displaying these tendencies is very much like a leech, sucking the lifeblood out of an organization and definitely out of any team that reports to such a leader.

Did I miss any other evidences of the leech leader? Let me know in the comments.

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