Leadership Spotlight

Why Leaders Lose Good People 

Businessman holding box with office items.


How do you first react when employees quit? Do you think, They’re foolish for leaving? It’s best for them? As they clean out their desk, remember that 1) personnel do not usually change jobs solely for money and 2) they unlikely resign on a whim or in a fit of anger. People joined your organization because they considered it right for themselves at the time, and it probably was. So, what transpired between the day you hired them and the day they quit?

Absence of Leadership

Personnel need effective, trustworthy leadership. Without it, they will struggle to perform at their full potential. Employees’ productivity may slip if their leaders do not provide proper direction regarding the organization’s vision and goals. In addition, without needed support employees more likely will become frustrated and discouraged and lose their motivation to devote their full effort to the job. Lack of leadership can result in lowered productivity, wasted time and resources, diminished morale, and increased turnover.

Lack of Organizational Vision

An agency without a clear vision statement—a roadmap—allows for too much speculation. Without this direction, employees must wait to see what happens next. They less likely will understand the organization’s overall expectations and objectives, let alone their own roles.

Personnel want to know what they are striving for and how their efforts fit within the agency. A vision statement allows them to think creatively and take initiative, rather than simply wait for assignments. As a result, they feel free to work independently within the confines of the vision.

Further, employees emotionally attached to the vision believe in what they do and become more committed to the organization. They consider their job important.


When monitored too closely, employees feel that they have no independence. Micromanagement causes personnel to lose the desire to do anything other than what leaders want them to do―and nothing more. No one “steps outside the box” or puts in extra work when micromanaged. Employees’ skills will diminish, leaving the agency with personnel who know how to do only what they are told. Such an environment results in individuals who lack innovation, depend on direction, distrust management, and want to leave.

Failure to Develop Personnel

Neglecting to build employees’ skill sets can devastate their morale. Developing and growing personnel helps eliminate their desire to look outside the agency for promotion. When trained and mentored, individuals understand the organization from the inside out. They become competent and independent both now and in the long term. Further, when leaders promote from within, employees see that advancement opportunities exist within the organization; this leads to higher productivity and morale.

Focus on the Wrong People

Through employee development, agencies discover their best performers. Leaders must identify the organization’s top personnel—the ones worth investing in who will, in turn, give their time and energy to the agency. It is critical to offer opportunities to the employees who deserve them; they put more value in the future than the present.

Agencies must promote only ideal candidates. To this end, a well-trained team provides a deep internal hiring pool from which to select during a promotion process. Leaders who consistently develop and promote their employees lead their organization into the future with a clear and coherent vision.

Capable, hardworking personnel want to work with others who share the same work ethic and perform optimally. When leaders fail to properly evaluate candidates and to hire the best, it can demotivate those stuck working alongside them.

Promoting the wrong personnel can prove devastating. When employees “go the extra mile” and put in additional work only to lose out on a promotion to someone who received it because of deception or favor, it is an insult. Such action often makes good people leave.

Toxic Employees

Personnel who continue exhibiting destructive behaviors, such as anger, laziness, or incompetence, can ruin the performance of a team or an entire organization, regardless of how effective other employees are. Such behaviors are remarkably contagious. Agencies that hire or continue to retain such personnel allow them to become toxic and subsequently set the stage for the most skilled employees to fail. Leaders must do all they can to screen individuals before hiring them. If people with concerns slip through, organizations must make every effort to reform or, if necessary, get rid of them.


Losing good people negatively impacts employee morale and productivity. Recruiting and training new personnel require time and money, and staff members must carry the extra workload. Further, when honest, capable employees leave, they often take a wealth of knowledge and experience with them.

Agencies must retain such personnel. Leaders need to guide their organization according to its mission and vision statement. They must develop employees without micromanaging them. Further, leaders need to identify, hire, and promote ideal employees while getting rid of poor ones. Keeping good people is easier than replacing them.

Undersheriff Vernon Knuckles of the Montezuma County, Colorado, Sheriff’s Office prepared this Leadership Spotlight. He can be reached at knuckles67@google-mail.com.