Leaders play a critical role in any organization, which is why it is so important for everybody in a leadership position to embody the culture and be a positive role model for others. When this doesn’t happen, the result can be toxic or destructive, creating a long-term impact on the company that can take years to reverse.
In fact, a recent article in Psychology Today stated that toxic leadership is on the rise and that “[t]here’s a clear symbiotic relationship between toxic workplaces and the toxic leaders who inhabit them.” While toxic leadership can sometimes be a result of inherent personality traits, organizations can avoid going too far down a destructive path by knowing how to identify the signs and changing course before it’s too late.
Look for these signs to determine if your organization is at risk of toxic leadership:
1. Poor Listening Skills
Leaders who don’t make time to listen to employees will miss out on critical information that can impact the company. Even when individuals have an opportunity to share their thoughts, if those ideas fall on deaf ears, it can be demoralizing and frustrating.
The signs of poor listening skills:
- Employees have stopped offering ideas for improvement.
- It is difficult or impossible to schedule a meeting with leaders.
- Leaders multitask in meetings or change the topic of conversation.
2. Lack of Feedback
Listening is the first key to good communication, but providing feedback is also essential for a healthy relationship with leadership. When leaders provide little or no feedback about performance, employees are left guessing or assuming that their behavior is acceptable. This applies to both negative and positive feedback. A leader who does not correct poor employee performance can’t expect beneficial change, but without positive feedback, employees are not given the full opportunity to flourish and grow.
The signs of lack of feedback:
- Employees do not have timely annual reviews.
- Individuals are left to make decisions that leadership should handle.
- High performers are now just producing average results.
- Employees repeatedly make the same mistakes.
3. Lack of Accountability
Everybody occasionally makes an error or misses a deadline, but when leaders do this time and again and are not accountable, it will trickle down through the entire organization. The result will be lost efficiency and an organization filled with people who do not feel responsible for the outcomes of their work.
The signs of lack of accountability:
- Leaders blame their team when something doesn’t go well.
- Employees express frustration with leaders for not following through.
- Leaders do not admit when they make mistakes.
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4. Bad Behavior Modeling
“Do as I say, not as I do” is not an effective attitude in the workplace. Leaders cannot expect employees to embrace a culture or behave in a certain way if they do not model those behaviors themselves. This type of attitude can be further damaging to a leader because it demonstrates that their words do not carry weight. Why would an employee commit to going the extra mile when the boss doesn’t demonstrate the same commitment?
Signs of bad behavior modeling:
- Managers have expectations of their teams but do not deliver the same level of performance.
- Leaders are not present in the workplace.
- Leaders do not behave in a way that supports the company culture.
Fortunately, all of these signs of destructive leadership can be corrected once they have been identified. Leadership development programs can be tailored to each individual to address areas of weakness at any point in the leadership pipeline. Whether an individual is a first-time manager or a C-level executive, they can benefit from leadership training to address these types of concerns.
Dave joined Eagle’s Flight in 1991 after having spent a number of years with a Toronto-based accounting firm. Since that time, he has held a number of posts within the company, primarily in the areas of Operations, Finance, Legal, and IT. In his current role as both Chief Financial Officer and President, Global Business, Dave is focused on ensuring the company’s ongoing financial health as well as growing its global market share. In pursuing the latter, Dave’s wealth of experience and extensive business knowledge has made him a valued partner and trusted advisor to both our global licensees and multinational clientele.