Culture is one of the most critical factors determining any organization’s longevity and
success. While many variables contribute to the culture, leadership is a primary
influencer. It’s no wonder the famous saying goes, “People don’t leave jobs; they leave
leaders.” Understanding the impact leadership has on workplace culture is crucial for
growth and success.
Why People Leave Jobs vs. Leaders
Research shows that job satisfaction is tightly linked with the immediate supervisor’s
leadership style. A Gallup poll found that a whopping 75% of the reasons people quit
their jobs boil down to their leaders. This doesn’t necessarily mean the leader is
inherently bad. It’s often about the culture they cultivate, whether it promotes growth,
inclusivity, and a sense of belonging or one that breeds toxicity, discontent, and
The Birth of a Toxic Culture
A toxic culture isn’t born overnight. It’s a culmination of consistent actions, behaviors,
and decisions – often stemming from leadership. Excessive competitiveness, fear-driven
tasks, favoritism, and no recognition might mark such an environment. Over time, these
elements can lead to reduced productivity, high turnover rates, and a tarnished
Kimberly J. Benoit’s book, “We’ve All Done It,” sheds light on the reality of our roles in
toxic workplaces. As she aptly puts it, it’s time to “Get real about the role we each play
in a toxic workplace.” None of us are exempt. Whether we’ve consciously or
unconsciously contributed, led, or participated in acts that have spurred toxicity,
acknowledging our role is the first step towards making amends.
From Toxicity to Thriving Environments
Examples of toxic environments are everywhere. Picture a workplace where employees
constantly look over their shoulders, ideas are shot down without consideration, or
gossip is the primary mode of communication. On the other hand, thriving
environments are those where employees feel seen and heard, where diversity is
celebrated, mistakes are considered learning opportunities, and where growth and well-
being are at the forefront.
As we grow as leaders, we must strive not to repeat missteps of the past and instead
build environments of inclusion and growth. Growth demands reflection, learning, and
action. If you’ve identified toxicity traits in your leadership or culture, it’s not the end.
It’s an opportunity to pivot and create a thriving space for all.
The Weight of Leadership
Leaders most significant responsibility is towards their charges – the humans who count
on them. This isn’t about numbers, projects, or profits; it’s about people. The day one
steps into a leadership role, priorities shift from me to we. As Benoit succinctly states,
“The day we become leaders is the day that it is not about you first anymore.” The
weight and reward of leadership lie in creating a culture where every individual can
flourish without fear.
Your Next Steps
If you’re in a leadership position or aspiring to be, delve deep into understanding the
culture you’re nurturing. Be open to feedback, be willing to change, and always place
the well-being of your team above all else.
I strongly recommend grabbing a copy of “We’ve All Done It” by Kimberly J. Benoit. It’s
a read and a revelation urging us to introspect, recognize our workplace roles, and
champion the change we wish to see. Remember, leadership isn’t about power but
empowering. And in that journey, culture isn’t just a factor; it’s the foundation.
Connect with me today to start building a culture of inclusion and growth!