Toxic Leaders

A friend recently sent me an article from Forbes titled, "Toxic Leaders and the Social Environments that Breed Them." The article, which focuses on toxic leadership in the military, defines toxic leadership as "a combination of self-centered attitudes, motivations, and behaviors that have adverse effects on subordinates, the organization, and mission performance."

I'm sure you've experienced toxic leadership at some point in your life. I know I have. To me, the most damaging part of toxic leadership is that it discourages others from leading. While I recognize there are moments that having a strong, central leader is crucial, I also think organizations need others who are prepared to lead and are following because in the moment that is the right leadership activity to undertake.

Let me explain.

I've never been in the military and have no firsthand experience of a combat situation, but based on what I have been told, there is an active, central leader in those moments, and all others follow their command. That is, unless or until, that leader is wounded or killed, in which moment there is a second leader who is prepared to step up and take command, and the others follow that leader. And so on and so on and so on.

The brilliance of that chain of command is that everyone is taught to lead with the knowledge that at some place and time, they may be called upon to demonstrate those skills and that, in the interim, their best form of leadership is following.

You are likely working in a non-military agency, but the basic concept still applies. You can't afford to be a toxic leader because you never know when you may be out of the picture, and the organization and its people need to survive without you. If you don't encourage leaders to rise up, they will be unprepared to lead when the need arises.

There are certain legacies you don't want to leave as a leader and - appealing as it may be to the ego - the legacy that the organization couldn't survive without you is one of them. Why? Because it really means, you didn't prepare others to lead and that's a primary job of a great leader.