There has been a lot of discussion recently about Toxic Leaders and how we define them. Fortunately I have only ever had to work for one such individual myself – the most depressing few months of my working career – but it is clear there are plenty of them out there!  

So what do I mean by “Toxic Leader”?  Here are some thoughts. They are abusive. They tend towards the over-exertion of authority and the over-extension of power. They prefer antagonism with subordinates rather than constructive relationships. They hold the belief that it’s alright to discard people based on personal preferences or style differences. They are susceptible to the championing of form over function . . . of appearances over results. They are given to the idea that destroying a career is an acceptable response to the unwillingness of a subordinate to submit intellectually or attitudinally. They are almost always a micromanager. They rarely take blame or share glory. They are not toxic all the time, or to all people. They are rarely, if ever, “toxic” when in the company of “the boss”.   They can be charming when the occasion fits. They often have a coterie of devoted fans who keep appearing on their staff. Most have been seen as toxic by subordinates since early in their career. Their boss either does not know or pretends not to know, and almost never records their abuse of subordinates.

Sound like anyone you know? A Toxic Leader can do untold damage to an organization – from the inside – so what can we do when we identify one? We will discuss that in a future post.