The last thing a good leader wants to do is frustrate his team. However, many leaders do this, and do it regularly, without perhaps knowing they are doing it.

Carey Nieuwhof shares seven things leaders do that frustrate and demoralize their teams.

Originally posted by Carey Nieuwhof

You know that as a leader you have a direct impact on your team, right?

It’s  impossible for a leader NOT to have an impact on their team. The only question is whether it’s a good impact or a bad one.

More than anything, your leadership will directly impact team morale. You’re either boosting team morale or demoralizing your team. It’s binary. If you think you’re being neutral, you won’t stay neutral for long. Left unattended, the air always leaks out of team spirit.

I’ve seen a lot of leaders demoralize their teams without even knowing they’re doing it. And when I look back on my leadership, I realize I’ve done it in seasons too.

Demoralizing your team happens primarily for two reasons.First, it happens when a leader is frustrated, which for most leaders, is quite often.

Sometimes a leader will blow off steam to feel better. But what often feels good to a leader can feel terrible to the team. You might think you’re scoring cheap points, but when a leader scores cheap points, the team always pays.

Second, it happens when a leader lacks self-awareness.

Here are the top 7 ways leaders demoralize their teams without even knowing it.


Too often leaders hold team members responsible for expectations they never articulated.

Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say you’re having an event on Thursday night. You expect the entire team to be there. After all, that’s what all good team members do—they show up. Except you never told them.

The next day you’re upset and frustrated with the team members who didn’t show.

That’s an unarticulated expectation.

Ditto with the hope that everyone would come in below budget this quarter—but again, you never told anyone. So many on the team spent their budget.

You can’t hold people accountable for something you never told them about.

Unless you want to frustrate them of course… then go right ahead.

By the way, this is also excellent marriage advice.


With leadership comes certain perks. One of those perks is that a leader often gets to set the rules.

Too often, though, leaders will decide the rules don’t apply to them or might even create a separate set of rules for themselves.

This is a big mistake.

Never ask your team to obey something you don’t obey. That goes for deadlines, expenses, and even parking spaces.

If you want to demoralize your team, act like the rules don’t apply to you.


As a leader, you get pitched all the time.

It’s far too easy to take all the credit for your team’s ideas.

Bad leaders take the accolades and assign the blame. Team members hate that, and the talented ones will leave… quickly.

By contrast, great leaders assume responsibility and share the credit.Give your team credit for great ideas, and you will always have a supply of great ideas.


I’m an ‘outcomes’ kind of guy: let’s just get it done.

I’m fortunate to work with teams that have always produced outstanding results.

But in the process, I’ve learned not to underestimate or devalue the work it takes to reach the outcome.

Often as a leader, it takes 5 minutes to explain a project to a team member. What’s easy to miss is the amount of effort and hustle a team member puts into the project after that conversation happens. Leaders are notorious for thinking a project will take two hours when in reality, it takes 20.

What’s the best way to keep your team’s morale up in that case?

Simple: notice how hard they worked. Tell them you realize it took longer than everyone thought, that you saw how much they put into it, and you’re grateful.

Appreciating how hard your team works lets them know their work wasn’t in vain    


When you’re the boss, it can be easy to give orders.

That’s also a great way to lose team members.

While it may seem strange, never demand your team do anything. Ask instead.

“Could you take care of this project this afternoon?” feels 1000 times better than “I need you get this done by 4:00… no excuses. Got it?”

Your team will work harder and more effectively when they’re asked to do something than when told to do something. After all, don’t you respond the same way when you’re asked rather than told? Yes, of course you do.

Leaders who ask rather than demand end up with far more productive teams.


Gratitude goes a long way in leadership.

Yes, people get paid. Yes, there is a certain expectation that goes along with receiving a pay check.

But in leadership, gratitude will get you much more than expectation.

Most people feel under-thanked and under-encouraged.

Leaders who encourage, who thank and who appreciate their team create a culture of gratitude and encouragement. It actually trickles through the entire organization. If you want to create a culture of gratitude and encouragement, then be the one to start it. You’re the leader. Your team will follow.


Leadership is hard. One of the reasons it’s hard is because you have to deal with problems almost every day.

As a result, it’s easy to ignore long-standing issues, personnel problems, and systemic challenges because you just don’t want to go there.

If you love your team, go there.

Everyone knows there are issues. When you name the elephant in the room, tackle the non-urgent but high important stuff and create an optimal environment, everyone gets healthier.

Nothing gets healthier all by itself.  So deal with the issues you see before the illness becomes chronic.