When Leadership Becomes Toxic, Part 4: The Role We Play

This post is part of a six-part series. 

Click here for part 1 “When Leadership Becomes Toxic: Ignoring Real Problems” 

Leadership, good or bad, takes all of us

We all have to understand the pervasiveness and scope of the problem of toxic leadership and why it is so imperative to push back against that even in seemingly small ways. 

As a matter of fact, most leadership is objectively subpar, leading to negative outcomes for those experiencing it. If you’ve been wondering if it’s just you or if your leaders, or pick of electoral candidates seem unfortunate, it’s not just you and your subjective opinion. According to surveys conducted with American workers, 56% say their boss is mildly or highly toxic, and 75% say their boss is the most stressful part of their day.

In a sense, “they” are right when “they” say “it’s like this everywhere”. It is like this everywhere.

But that doesn’t make it okay.

What we allow

And we enable this with acceptance and by allowing ourselves to be gaslighted and misled by this rhetoric. 

We fall into the trap of partisan dialogue and problem-solving and legitimize this behaviour from our political leaders. We continue to buy into myths about leadership and worship those with narcissistic, psychopathic and histrionic traits

Our systems for electing, selecting and compensating our leaders support this toxicity. Many of us accept the excuses, and the dodging of accountability and forget that we are entitled to explanations. 

Our leaders are not gods, there only to serve themselves while we switch our brains off and do their bidding or accept what they bestow upon us. 

Even in the corporate world, the relationship between a leader and their employees should be reciprocal. You do the work to help them deliver. They ensure your wellbeing so that you can do the work to the best of your ability and they earn your loyalty or trust so that you stay there.  

We are allowed to have high expectations. In fact, it is vital that we do.

This has nothing to do with what your job or area of expertise is in society. If you are a stakeholder, a person affected in any way by the decisions being made and actions being taken by a person in authority, you have a right to ask about outcomes and demand better. 

You have an experience that is directly or indirectly impacted by those decisions and those actions, which gives you a right to weigh in.

Make no mistake. Democracy doesn’t function well without the information to make informed decisions about our leaders and their capacity to do the job. This is why we ask questions and demand answers, and we should not accept being dismissed. This is why leaders should be forthcoming when they or the organizations they lead, mess up.  

Click here for part 5 “When Leadership Becomes Toxic Part 5: Where is the Loyalty? ”   

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