Toxic Leadership or Toxic Culture?

Insecure people only eclipse your sun because they’re jealous of your daylight and tired of their dark, starless nights. - Shannon L. Alder

Varsha Gehlot

8/28/20220 min read

"What's the greatest threat to your organization?"
Specifically, toxic leadership can deteriorate an otherwise strong organization from the inside out. While this "rot" can be a slow-moving process, it is challenging to reverse course once the damage is underway. Ultimately, an unchecked toxic leader will lead to a toxic culture and poor employee engagement. Toxic organizations will not flourish. Toxic leadership is pervasive.
What are the attributes of a toxic leader?
Ironically, poisonous leaders are known for some of the same traits many would assume fuel organizational triumph. Toxic leaders are often insensitive individuals who are swift to criticize, demean, bully and disempower team members when the organization or individual's performance is not meeting the "leader's" self-imposed standard.
Toxic managers are autocratic, micromanaging the organization in a presentation of distrust of their team. Toxic leaders are manipulative, creating competing partnerships in the organization to keep everyone on eggshells and doubtful of the other. Toxic leaders intimidate, discriminate, and feel challenged to share the spotlight with others within the organization.
While the most straightforward antidote to toxic leadership is to keep poisonous leaders out of the organization firstly, sometimes it is challenging to pinpoint the toxicity in the hiring process.
Luckily, toxic leaders induce self-inflicted wounds that provide openings for remedial measures. When these leaders continuously criticize team members, they lose "social capital" within the organization, resulting in declining performance.
This becomes a "change or moves on" point for the leader. If the leader is not a full-blown egomaniac, they will recognize their problem behaviors and amend them to maintain their role & employment. If, on the other hand, the leader denies to acknowledge or modify the behavior, senior leadership MUST take action.
Perhaps the best approach to mitigating toxic leadership's influence is ensuring that the team is empowered to share concerns without fear of retribution. An employee relations team or an organizational ombudsperson will provide team members with a safety netting of support when bullying is identified in the office. Make sure these kinds of checks and balances are in place. Organizations must understand that such managers are  easily replaceable if they devalue their colleagues.