toxic leaders

3 Types of Toxic Leaders (And How to Avoid Becoming One)

While a great leader can truly make a positive impact on your life and career, toxic leaders have the power to do the complete opposite. If you’ve had experience working with both ends of the spectrum, you know that you and your coworkers can just feel the difference – and that the negativity of toxic leaders is especially contagious.

In fact, researchers have recently discovered – unsurprisingly – that, “under toxic leadership, employees are more likely to become overly critical of one another. They were more likely to take credit for other people’s work and they behaved more aggressively toward their fellow employees.”

If there’s not someone in a position of power that’s in your corner, actively supporting you and helping you to set and achieve goals, succeeding in your role, loving what you do and enthusiastically supporting others can prove to be extremely difficult. With that in mind, here are three types of toxic leaders to watch out for in the workplace:

The Avoider

If you’ve ever worked for The Avoider, you’ve probably realized pretty quickly that it’s somehow worse than not having a leader at all. This kind of leader is absolutely checked out – whether that means not being in the office physically or just being virtually inaccessible. No email can penetrate their shields, no call is important enough and don’t even think about snagging time on their calendar.

Outside of a dangerous lack of accountability and communication, this kind of toxic leader avoids both giving and receiving feedback at all costs. Not interested in rocking the boat, The Avoider would rather take the path of least resistance, coasting along on the bare minimum, without progressing themselves or their team members.

I, Me, My

A leader that’s driven by the toxic influence of I, Me, My syndrome can’t look past themselves to see what’s best for their subordinates, team and organization as a whole. In the end, it always comes back to the most important person in the room – themselves!

Not only is their opinion the one that matters most, but they also act judge, jury and executioner when it comes to all decision making. Unfortunately, this can cause a debilitating bottleneck to form within your team which slows productivity to a grinding halt. If every decision – small and large – needs to flow through one person, how can progress ever be made and future leaders be formed?

Success Machine

Working for the Success Machine might actually seem like a positive at first! After all, their single-minded focus on career and status can be attractive to those that have their sights set upon climbing the corporate ladder. However, problems start to arise when matters of emotional impact, burnout and work-life balance come into play.

Toxic leaders that run solely on the fuel of cut-throat success can have an extremely difficult time empathizing with others to truly understand their perspective. This can have an extremely negative effect on morale as teammates begin to feel as though their efforts – especially in failure – are not being recognized. Appreciation and consideration, it turns out, can be just as important for success as hitting metrics and crushing goals.

Becoming Your Style of Leader

No two leaders are exactly the same. While they may share similar influences, each leader’s  method for approaching their roles is shaped by individual experience, preference and strengths. As you work to define your signature style, it’s important to recognize both pieces of the puzzle: the positive experiences and personal strengths that will act as your leadership bedrock, and the bad examples that illustrate how not to lead.

Mistakes are going to happen, but if you find yourself slipping into any of these common behaviors of toxic leaders, it’s important to recognize it quickly and take action to rectify the situation. Do you have any other examples of toxic leaders? Share your thoughts on identifying and avoiding harmful leadership habits in the comment section below!

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