Positive Leaders Don’t Undermine Their Employees


Positive leaders are focused on building a strong and highly functional organization by having high standards for performance, and by encouraging and supporting their employees. These leaders have high expectations for the quality of their product (team), performance of their employees (players), and through creating great customer service. Positive leaders praise their people when they perform well, and they correct and instruct them when they don’t perform well. But one thing positive leaders don’t do is throw their employees under the bus to cover up when the leader makes a mistake. Instead, the positive leader acknowledges the mistake, takes responsibility, and moves on.

People follow leaders who work hard, make good decisions, who are honest, and who care about their employees or players. This builds trust amongst the workforce. And a team or organization cannot be at their best if team members cannot trust their leader.

Recently, the owner of a national software company threw the marketing director under the bus after the owner made a major public relations mistake and put blame on the marketing office. Most, if not all of the employees, knew that the owner was trying to save face and scapegoat the marketing director. This created a tension amongst the workforce, which in turn started to create a negative environment. Tempers became short and people didn’t trust one another. This created a bit of a dysfunction within the organization. In truth, if this type of leadership behavior continues, the organization will suffer from employee disengagement. This will hurt sales, productivity, and customer service.

Whether you’re a coach who is trying to build a strong team, or a business leader who is trying to create a quality product, the key is that you need to build trust amongst your people so they are motivated to work hard and are positively engaged in the organization. Positive relationships and communication are key to establishing this trust and loyalty. If you can build strong relationships amongst your people, they will work hard to create a quality product and provide great customer service. The by-product of this is increased sales, higher net income, and more wins.

When you feel the impulse to lash out at an employee (or player), or to shift blame, remember that you are the leader and your people want to follow someone who works hard, makes good decisions, is honest, and who truly cares about his/her people. Being a positive leader and creating an outstanding organization is hard work. Understand that you need to encourage and support your people. Be self-aware and know when to take a deep breath and refrain from making a comment that will tear down your players or employees. Have high expectations, build them up, hold them accountable, and by all means, don’t throw your people under the bus.


Howard Gauthier is a Professor in the College of Education at Idaho State University.  He is an author, writer and speaker on Positive Leadership and Sports Careers.  Gauthier is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He currently teaches Leadership and is the author of five books, eight e-books, several research articles, and hundreds of blogs . Check out his book, The Positive Leader at www.ThePositiveLeader.org.