It’s no secret that some of the best companies that stand the test of time are led by great leaders. These leaders act as role models – they inspire and attract talent and they understand how to manage their teams regardless of the obstacles that may stand in their way. We tend to bring up the traits and skills of great leaders a lot because, well, it’s a huge factor in the success of your organization! Unfortunately, the harsh reality of poor and toxic leadership is often ignored despite the fact that leadership skills and traits can and should be developed.
It is equally important, sometimes more so, to analyze toxic leadership traits along with the positive ones. Here are some of the most common toxic traits of leaders.
Toxic leaders think they are the best – at everything
Actually, toxic leaders know they are the best at everything. Just ask them. It’s one thing to be very good at what you do and have confidence. It’s another to have an unhealthy overconfidence in your own abilities. This shows up as a leader’s blind spot and when failure occurs, which is more common than most people think, toxic leaders blame others.
Tip: Try taking a step (or a few) back and allow room for others on your team to grow. A new perspective can go a long way.
Toxic leaders ignore conflict
Ignore. Avoid. Disregard. Whichever verb it is, toxic leaders want nothing to do with conflict, likely because their job is hard enough right? When it comes time to dealing with issues or having difficult conversations, toxic leaders tend to go MIA. While avoiding conflict can lead to more conflict (surprised?), it also leads to little or no communication. For the love of your organization, please do not ignore conflict. Perception is reality and communication is key.
Tip: Keep yourself in the loop by asking employees how they are doing. When an issue arises, talk with your employee and coach them through it.
Toxic leaders refuse feedback
There’s a lot of layers to this one, but it all boils down to ego. They won’t take your input; they will try to control the situation, and they will refuse to listen. Why? Well, your boss is always right…right? Toxic leaders are very good at blaming others when things go wrong and taking the credit when things go right. Don’t be that person.
Tip: Instead of pointing fingers all the time, make it a point to recognize and acknowledge the great work of others. Focus on your team because your position wouldn’t mean much without them.
Toxic leaders don’t prioritize culture
This in and of itself is a major issue and probably one of the most toxic behaviors. The point of your role as a leader is to live the organization’s core values and prioritize building a high-performing culture. Toxic leaders don’t focus on this and we’re guessing empowering and uplifting your team doesn’t ring a bell either. Not to mention this toxic attitude will definitely spread throughout the organization.
Tip: Honesty and transparency. Be conscious of your intentions and create a culture before one is created on its own.
Toxic leaders stop learning
How does that saying go? “Everyone makes mistakes (except leaders).” Of course, this isn’t true, but it’s exactly what a toxic leader is thinking. If you aren’t learning new things and growing from your mistakes, how do you expect your team to do the same? We guess if you never want to evolve as an organization, it could work.
Tip: Try working on a growth mindset. Be open to new ideas, listen to your employees and when things go wrong, figure out how you can learn from them.
How many times did you think “Well this seems all too familiar?” Whether it was a trait you saw in yourself or the behavior of a leader you’ve had in your past, toxic leaders are unfortunately all too common. As obvious as the above behaviors may sound, they often go unrecognized. As leaders, we all have a choice as to how we show up for ourselves and our teams. Turn the lens inward and focus on breaking toxic habits and patterns. Be the leader that inspires talent and drives performance. Be the leader that you would follow.