10 Signs You’re a Scary Leader

by | Oct 28, 2014 | Blog, Emotional Intelligence, Employee Engagement and Retention, Leadership

jackolanterns10 SIGNS YOU’RE A SCARY LEADER:

  1. Conversations stop when you walk by.
  2. People laugh at your jokes (even when they’re not funny).
  3. All of your brainstorming ideas are “good ones.”
  4. Your 360-degree feedback comes back with all scores 5 out of 5.
  5. Employees avoid sitting with you at the lunch table.
  6. No one comes into your office, even when the door is open.
  7. People don’t come to you with problems.
  8. No one ever tells you you’re wrong.
  9. You’re not invited to social gatherings.Halloween bat
  10. People flatter you a lot.


Even if you’re not this scary, you are probably scarier than you think. Merely by being in a leadership position, you have power over others that can be intimidating. For example, if you call someone into your office without a reason, that person may think they are in trouble—even if you’re calling them in to give them praise. Your positional power can also make your statements appear more intimidating than what you intend. A whimsical comment can be taken seriously by your employees. For example, if you say in jest “someone should bring donuts to our meetings,” you might find that someone actually does bring donuts to the next meeting because they took you seriously.

Deep voices and tall statures can be intimidating to others as well. If you have either (or both), you may need to take extra steps to set others at ease with you—especially when you are the leader. Sitting down and talking in a quieter voice are ways to make others feel more comfortable. A smile, an open posture, and small talk are further ways to warm up the room and help people feel comfortable talking to you. “How was your weekend?” or “Do you have anything fun planned for Halloween?” are easy questions to stimulate conversation. Statements, such as “It has finally cooled down to a comfortable temperature out there” or “I love the fall weather we’ve been having lately” are other statements that usually cause others to reply in a comfortable, easy conversation.

Many leaders strive to have a stronger presence as they move up the ladder. While that may be necessary to gain respect among peers and leaders at the next level, it is still important to maintain the rapport with your team members. Showing confidence and jumping into the conversation may get you ahead in your meetings with peers, but it may set you back with your direct reports. Being approachable, supportive, and attentive will earn you trust with your team and that will motivate them to work harder for you. Scaring them is, well, just scary.