Leadership Development

When Leadership and Power Go Awry18 Aug

Many of you have probably heard of the notion of Toxic Leadership. Authors on this topic describe toxic leadership as being way beyond the ordinary, out-of control, demagogue. The toxic leader is a seriously dysfunctional individual who acts out his or her personal and psychological malfunctioning on the hapless people that they lead. The result is that people who are objects of envy, who seek to disagree; in essence those who do not feed the rampant ego of a toxic leader, find themselves on a hit list where they are persecuted and tormented by relentless harassment and intimidation. The toxic leader does not usually let up until their object of persecution is destroyed and removed from their environment. This is because their behaviour is based in an obsessive preoccupation with their own perceptions of worthlessness. A toxic leader is akin to an insatiable monster whose lust for power is never satisfied but who must continuously feed to maintain some sense of short term satisfaction. Sadly this destructive behaviour never addresses the real problem, this is because there is no connection between the behaviour and the source of the problem. People who are obssessed with a desire to accumulate ultimate power often have, in their history, some experience of serious emotional deprivation. Their need to accumulate power at all cost, reminds us of the drug addict continuously searching for the next fix that they hope, in vain, will fill the emotional void they feel within themselves. Drug addiction and the power addiction of the toxic leader are maladies of the same ilk. The prognosis for recovery is poor and the medium to long term outcome is seldom positive….they eventually destroy themselves. If you find yourself in the pathway of a toxic leader, don’t try and make it work……get out of their way as soon as possible, before they destroy you. Toxic leaders, when placed in a position of power, can wreak enormous destruction on people and organizations. They are hard to stop because they are manipulative and devious, and they play the ‘game’; making friends in the ‘right’ places. Morality and ethics don’t feature high on their agenda, especially if they get in the way of what they want. They are people who often do not have a strong moral conscience. Because of this you cannot expect them to behave morally, nor it is ever very easy to predict their behaviour. Unless you understand their pathology, which is what motivates them, you will never know what’s coming next. Toxic leaders will do everything necessary to conceal their pathology and their destructive motives, they are usually people that are difficult to read, because, in essence they have a lot to hide.
When you encounter these people, don’t be tempted to engage……you are in the wrong place, go elsewhere.

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One Response to “When Leadership and Power Go Awry”

  1. Muctaru Kabba Reply

    Enjoyed reading this piece about an unfortunate human phenomenon – toxic leadership. Are there historical examples of the pathologies described in the piece to illuminate our understanding of toxic leadership.

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Dr. Elaine Saunders – Industrial Psychologist

Phd in Leadership Development
Author of Assessing Human Competence
Specialising in online competency-based assessment tools, leadership development and performance counselling
Based in Sandton, Johannesburg

My key areas of intervention revolve around helping individuals to achieve their potential in the work context. To this end, my consulting practice comprises of three key applications which are related. These are the application of competency-based assessment in recruitment and leadership development, counselling as it pertains to performance, wellness and the recovery from trauma, and leadership development coaching.

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