Dangers of toxic leadership

Toxic leadership: The writer identifies toxic leadership as in the main the kind of leadership driven by self-serving attitudes and approaches, contributing little to the enhancement of business at hand. Picture: Shutterstock

Important for individuals to locate and attach themselves to positive environments, climates and inspirational leaders to become great

To conceptualise and understand any form of leadership, it is important to recognise and appreciate all forms of leadership.

A great quote on leadership was expressed by the former president of the US, Ronald Reagan, who said “the greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things but the one that gets the people to do the greatest things”.

Unfortunately not all leaders lead by example.

There is a type of a leader that instead of facilitating productivity contaminates the work environment.

This is what you may refer to as toxic leadership.

What is toxic leadership?

Toxic leadership can be identified by a combination of self-centred attitudes, motivations and behaviours that have a negative influence on the organisation and carrying out of duties.

A toxic leader tends to leave the organisation in a significantly worse state than prior to their interaction.

The toxic leader does not take cognitive consideration of their fellow employees neither for the organisation, which is an interrelated eco-system.

Toxic leaders often portray narcissistic personality traits where they believe and constantly state directly or indirectly that that their self-worth is greater than those surrounding them.

Toxic leaders instil fear into the organisation, either by direct actions of power, influence or more subtle charismatic actions of manipulation and elegance.

Whilst toxic leadership does fulfil the satisfaction of short terms goals, due to their toxic methods, the long term life span of healthy work environment and employees begins to deteriorate.

It can therefore be said that although a toxic leader has short term productivity improvement potential, they are detrimental in the long run.

Typical behaviours of a toxic leader resonates around deception, intimation and dependency by using methods like:

•Assigning large amounts of work to the extent that the employee has been set up for failure. This can be used as a further tool to criticise the performance of the employee.

•Use of disciplinary systems to strong-arm employees and add another gadget to their extensive negatively defined repertoire and to keep track of employees. This environment is often classified as punitive.

•Abusive of organisational structures in terms of hierarchies, personal relationships and the equilibrium flow.

•These leaders can be very possessive of material and physical objects, very territorial.

The outcomes of constant exposure to toxic leadership is evident when subordinates’ willpower, initiative, enthusiasm, creativity; autonomy and potential begin to fade away.

Consequently, the team’s or organisation’s morale will be inevitably destroyed due to the constant toxicity and negativity within the workplace. The result of toxic leadership can be seen as the dilution of the uniqueness of the individuals under the mentorship of toxic leadership.

Research states that as human beings we are driven by intrinsic satisfaction, however, under the climate of toxic leadership the internal satisfaction of the individual is negatively influenced.

By failing to recognise and appreciating an employee for their uniqueness, and merely concentrating on their mental output is limiting by nature.

Toxic leaders have limited their interaction with employees and have created the blinker theory and will therefore fail to recognise the true potential of their employees, whilst stifling their development and altering the trajectory of their potential.

Research further states that there is a correlation between toxic leadership and high turnover or increased absenteeism.

Once toxic leadership filters through to the fundamental structure of the organisation and alters the environment and climate, the foundations have now been laid for the development for the next generation of toxic leaders to be groomed.

Toxic leadership is able to foster and create an environment of mistrust and prosecution whereby all employees fend for themselves.

Therefore, it can be concluded that an environment built on these premises simply does not foster a culture of productivity but achieves the opposite.

How can do you counter or prevent the effects of toxic leadership?

It starts with each of us – if you recognise these toxic symptoms in your organisation – as a leader you should follow basic steps such as:

•Acknowledge the environment as one that needs improvement.

•Provide a positive solution/climate intervention.

•Shy away from naming and shaming.

•Reinforce inspirational leaders publicly.

•Do not reward bullying behaviour inyour teams.

•Lead by example when setting realistic deadlines/targets.

•Deal swiftly and diligently with outlying toxic leaders.

An employee under the influence of toxic leadership cannot be the most productive version of themselves.

Therefore it is of utmost importance as individuals, that we locate and attach ourselves to positive environments, climates and inspirational leaders to ensure that we become the greatest version of ourselves and consequently the most productive version.

Productive employees can be inspired by great leaders, toxic leaders however have the reverse effect and need to be channelled towards team goals as negative energy hardly ever transforms into positive outcomes.

Bongani Coka

Bongani Coka is CEO of Productivity SA