Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Toxic Leadership Will Not be Tolerated

Toxic leadership
(Photo credit: Career Success for Newbies)
"When leadership fails and command climate breaks down, tragic things can happen." ~ Major Anthony Kern
A Definition

In his article "Toxic Leadership," Colonel George E. Reed shares his perspective on toxic leadership – a virus plaguing many cultures and organizations. Reed uses analyst Gillian Flynn's definition of a toxic leader: the "manager who bullies, threatens, yells. The manager whose mood swings determines the climate of the workplace on any given workday. Who forces employees to whisper in sympathy…he is the backbiting, belittling boss from hell.'"

According to Reed, three key elements lead to toxic leader syndrome:
  • An apparent lack of concern for the well being of subordinates.
  • A personality or interpersonal technique that negatively affects organizational climate.
  • A conviction by subordinates that the leader is motivated primarily by self-interest.
Toxicity is not a leader-only problem. The above elements can be associated with followers whose toxic behaviors negatively affect the health of their organizations. 

Why Are Toxic Leaders Tolerated?

Toxic leaders undoubtedly exist in every organization. So why are these type of leaders tolerated. Reed shares a few reasons:
  • Culture
    • Loyalty militates against airing dirty laundry.
    • Lack of reporting by subordinates.
    • Respect for rank (position).
    • Esteem for technical competence over leadership style.
  • Personnel policies
    • Waiting for the toxic leader to move on or be replaced.
    • Lack of a comprehensive evaluation system to get subordinate feedback.
Addressing Toxicity

What can be done to improve an environment plagued by toxic behavior? Reed suggests the following:
  • Purge individuals with leadership styles that promote toxicity. 
  • Promote a culture that fosters a positive command climate.
  • Identify and purge toxic leaders.
  • Be on the lookout for toxic behavior in subordinates.
  • Deal with the toxic leader. 
Leader's Intent

Review Colonel George Reed’s article "Toxic Leadership."

Purpose: Recognizing the organizational impact resulting from toxic leadership.

End State: Toxic leaders need not be tolerated and need to be dealt with.

A special thanks to guest blogger Brian Fennessy, Assistant Fire Chief, Emergency Operations - San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, and NWCG Leadership Subcommittee agency representative. 

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