3 Ways Impulsive Leadership Is Devastating To Your Company’s Culture

Heidi Lynne Kurter
4 min readJul 30, 2022


A reactive and impulsive leader can be detrimental to the success of their team and overall organization. | Photo by Yan Krukov

One of the biggest stressors in the workplace is a poor leader. According to a recent Gallup report, poor leadership is the number one reason why employees quit costing U.S. businesses $1 trillion in turnover each year. The result of poor leadership leads to negative Glassdoor reviews, an endangered company reputation, and a diminished competitive advantage. All of which deter top talent from applying or accepting job offers due to how the company is perceived in its industry.

A SHRM survey revealed, 84% of U.S. workers say poor leadership creates unnecessary stress and an overwhelming workload. Poor leaders are often reactive, impulsive, and unpredictable. Reactive and impulsive leadership often stems from being under tight deadlines, intense pressure, job concerns, and an effort to prove oneself. While there are some advantages to impulsive leadership such as being quick to adapt, having out-of-the-box ideas, and taking action quickly, there are even more disadvantages.

Some disadvantages are:

  • Decreased morale and engagement
  • Increased turnover
  • Damaging the department’s credibility
  • Losing respect from employees
  • Eroded team culture
  • Leaving team members to clean up the leader’s mess
  • Team members reluctant to share ideas or solutions

Here are three ways impulsive leadership does more harm than good to an organization.

Lack Of Clear Direction

A common trait of an impulsive leader is making departmental changes without first taking the time to understand the existing culture. Sarah Walters, marketing manager at The Whit Group, explained, although the intention is well-meaning, a leader’s impulsiveness usually does more harm than good. It costs the company time, money, and resources due to having to go back and redo the things that were done reactively.

Additionally, there are impulsive leaders who can’t quite make up their minds which leads to them constantly changing directions. A common example is giving instructions for a task and contradicting them the next day. As such, it leaves the employee feeling insecure and uncertain about how to meet the needs of the leader. Consequently, this makes employees feel disempowered and dependent on the instructions of the leader. Furthermore, it creates frustration and confusion which prevents team members from achieving their goals. Moreover, a lack of clear instructions and expectations lead to an increase in mistakes which result in poor performance and productivity. An employee who has always received praise for their work previously may now suffer under the direction of an impulsive leader. This could destroy their confidence which then turns into insecurity, and a reluctance to be proactive and innovative.

Instability And Unnecessary Stress

One of the most significant disadvantages of an impulsive leader is creating instability in the workplace. Reactive decision-making and impulsive actions more often than not lead to disaster rather than success. Since there’s no consistency in how an impulsive leader behaves, employees are unable to anticipate what’s to come. Steve Anderson, CEO of JunkYardNearMe, said, “impulsive leaders constantly focus on urgent issues and fail to identify the root causes of recurring issues; this makes it difficult to put preventive measures in place to prevent the issue from happening again.”

Rather than consulting with team members, the impulsive leader makes decisions on a whim and expects immediate buy-in from their team. The challenge is they often don’t think through the consequences of their actions and decision-making. Thus, when a mistake occurs, impulsive leaders are quick to dodge accountability and instead blame their team. This not only creates more work for the team but it also leads to resentment, tension, and unnecessary stress. All of which has a cascading effect on the rest of the organization.

Employees feel as if they’re being set up for failure due to tasks and big projects being added to their workload without any understanding of a deadline or what’s expected of them. When they attempt to seek help from their leader, they’re faced with silence because the leader has already shifted their focus to another task. Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., CEO, keynote speaker, and concierge coach, asserted, “managers who are prone to acting on impulse are typically unfocused. They go from one task to the next then back to the one they were just doing because it all depends on how the rest of their day goes. These kinds of managers lack a true sense of organization and don’t prioritize their responsibilities in any meaningful way.” She added, “because the manager hasn’t designated these responsibilities as being of the utmost importance, the employees, too, will lack this focus and be unaware of which tasks ought to be prioritized the highest.”

Impulsive Decisions Lead To Poor Outcomes

Impulsive decisions lead to dysfunction and destabilization of a team. Reactive and impulsive decision-making creates an atmosphere of fear, conflict, blame, and distrust making it difficult for individuals to achieve their goals. Eva Taylor, content manager at WP Buffs, explained, “mostly, these decisions result in actions that require backtracking at a later stage, wasting time and resources and also lowering the morale of employees who have to pay for the errors of their leader.”

Due to a lack of consistency and expectations that are always changing, employees are left guessing how they should spend their time. Vaibhav Kakkar, CEO of Digital Web Solutions, expressed, “an employee’s capacity to achieve their objectives will be severely hindered if they don’t have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them.” He added, “it’s possible that the company’s goals will be accomplished, but more often than not, this will happen either by accident or as a result of the diligent efforts of employees who accomplish these goals in spite of the rash decisions made by their manager.”



Heidi Lynne Kurter

Forbes senior journalist, workplace culture consultant, leadership coach, domestic violence advocate, workplace bully activist and Corgi mom!