I’ve witnessed too many situations where a weak leader at the top has a negative cascading effect throughout the whole organization.

If the top person – whether that be a board chair, president or even department manager – is insecure, they surround themselves with people who don’t threaten them or appear to be brighter than they are. The result is that the incompetence permeates the org chart, with people who are not strong occupying more and more of the positions. And when the incompetence results in policies and practices that defy logic, the good people become frustrated and are either pushed out or leave voluntarily. Either way, the organization suffers.

When you’re interviewing at a company, pay attention to the philosophy of the head honcho, even if you’re several layers removed. Whether intentionally or by default, their priorities trickle down to everyone and their values dictate the actions of the whole organization. And if you find yourself in an existing position with a leadership change, assess the situation early on. A once-great organization can crumble with someone new at the helm and it may be prudent for you to move on instead of hoping the place you loved can survive the turmoil.

Leadership matters. And lack of leadership may matter more.

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