Books, articles, seminars, Ted Talks and LinkedIn Articles abound espousing the virtues of great leaders, effusive in their description of men and women who are selfless, humble, empathetic, compassionate, emotionally intelligent and altruistic. Hordes of consultants, university professors, researchers and coaches make their living espousing the need for choosing these kinds of leaders.
However the truth of the matter is that we are hypocrites, and the modern workplace is witnessing the rise of toxic leaders and workplaces. We tend to choose or follow a very different kind of leader. We hire and promote the psychopaths, the narcissists, the bullies and the autocrats dedicated to self-interest, and whose long-term impact has and can damage and even destroy organisations. In my decade in recruitment, I have encountered and recruited for more of the leaders described in this paragraph than those described in the first paragraph. Many people easily forgive these toxic leaders and the harm they cause because they measure their success solely in financial terms or because they bring charismatic entertainment value to the organisation.
The part that dysfunctional leaders play in creating Toxic workplaces can be characterized as follows:
· All sticks and no carrots. Management focuses solely on what employees are doing wrong or correcting problems, and rarely give positive feedback for what is going right. Or mostly carrots for the best performers, sticks for the rest;
· The creeping bureaucracy. There are too many levels of approval and management to get things done and a singular focus on micromanaging employees;
· The gigantic bottom line. A singular focus on profits, beating the competition and cost cutting without consideration of other bottom lines;
· Bullies rule the roost. Bullying of employees by management, or tolerated by management when it occurs among employees;
· Losing the human touch. People are considered to be objects or expenses rather than assets, and there is little concern for their happiness and/or well-being;
· High levels of stress, turnover, absenteeism and burnout;
· Instituting internal competition among employees enforced by a performance assessment system that focuses on individual performance rather than team performance;
· Little or no concern for work-life balance, where a personal or family life must be sacrificed for the job;
· Overwork or workaholism, commonly evidenced by 50 hr+ workweeks, little or no vacation time and 24/7 availability for work communication;
· Little evidence of leaders’ compassion and empathy for employees;
· Little or no commitment to making contributions to the community, worthy causes or making the world a better place.
There’s a clear symbiotic relationship between toxic workplaces and the toxic leaders who inhabit them.
Robert Sutton says in business (and sports) it is assumed if you are a big winner, you can get away with being a jerk. Sutton argues such bosses and cultures drive good people out and claims bad bosses affect the bottom line through increased turnover, absenteeism, decreased commitment and performance. He says the time spent counselling or appeasing these people, consoling victimized employees, reorganizing departments or teams and arranging transfers produce significant hidden costs for the company. And he warns organizations this behavior is contagious. Research suggests not only that some bosses are jerks but that many of them are bosses because they are jerks.
Some of the key identifiers for toxic leaders’ behaviors are as follows:
· Leaving their followers worse off than when they found them by deliberately undermining, demeaning, seducing, marginalizing, intimidating, demoralizing, terrorizing them;
· Consciously feeding their followers illusions that enhance the leader’s power and impair the followers’ capacity to act independently
· Playing to the basest fears and needs of the followers;
· Threatening or punishing those who fail to comply with the leader or question the leader’s actions;
· Misleading followers through deliberate lies;
· Blaming others for their mistakes or failures.
Several things are clear. First, we are sleep waling into a leadership crisis when it comes to confidence in business leaders. Second, we say we want empowering, humble, and kind leaders—bolstered by research evidence—but we often choose authoritarian, controlling, narcissistic and toxic leaders. Perhaps it’s time for the general public, recruiters, and leadership development experts to end the contradiction and do what’s best for our organizations and society.
Source article can be found HERE