Updated: Jun 25
There are many resources for learning leadership. Resources that tell you what to do, how to act, and what traits are important. There are far fewer resources that tell someone what NOT to do. I have seen toxic leadership (which really isn't leadership at all) contaminate businesses, teams, communities, and the world. The contagion is real. Did you know that in Jean-Lipman-Blumen's 2005 book, The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians -- and How We Can Survive Them, she states that toxic leaders will charm first and then will turn toxic and ultimately leave their followers in a worse status? Do you know any bosses that have charmed you only to suffocate you later? The 2015 Gallup study, State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders, states that the majority of managers in the U.S. are not even the right person for the job. In fact, they estimate that this toxic leadership can cost the U.S. Economy nearly $398 billion annually. $398 BILLION! That is sexual harassment suits, hostile work environments, vacant positions, employees calling in sick, and so much more!
So what can you do? You have to turn off the tap. Stop hiring these toxins. Just as Alan Goldman indicates in his 2009 book, Transforming Toxic Leaders, you need to do better at screening for the red flags that these individuals have. This was one of the main themes of my dissertation for police chiefs, fire chiefs, and emergency management directors. Jurisdictional authorities needed to screen for the right behaviors and screen out the wrong behaviors.
Take the time to identify exactly what you want in a position. Update the job description. Do not only focus on job tasks, but also focus on behaviors and personality chartacteristics. Do you want a program builder or a program maintainer? What leadership states and traits do you want. What toxic behaviors do you want to avoid? List these things and then screen for them using psychological, personality, and leadership tests. Take some time in your hiring process to actually find the right person for the job. Can you really afford to put the wrong person, the toxic person, in the position?