Leadership toxicity assessment

BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong - The Philippine Star

Have you ever met leaders who make their life mission is to make their people miserable? I have not. I think it is safe to assume no or very few leaders wake up each day and say, “Today, I will make my employees’ lives hell as much as possible.” Most leaders we dislike are not evil people. They merely lack the leadership skills to be more effective and this makes them toxic and brutal.

The people who have the “grit” would bear these toxic leaders every day because they need the job and the pay. They will comply and deliver the barest minimum. Worst, these toxic leaders drive promising talents away. Both consequences are not good for business.

I have been doing leadership training all my life. I have had testimonies of senior executives/business owners telling me how the bosses they have sent to the leadership classes changed and transformed into the celebration of their people. So how would you know whether you as a leader are perceived to be toxic and brutal? Consider today a self-assessment exercise. Be objective, control your mood and temper, be thoughtful and evaluate whether the following situation is happening with your workforce, your team, or your workplace.

Here are the signs:

1.Healthy conversation and communication are not there.

The people are not speaking up because they are scared. Perhaps you have been sarcastic, maybe you do not welcome their ideas. Perhaps your quiet little unconscious actions (facial expression, smirk) indicate that you do not find their opinions of any value. Maybe they have been the bearers of bad news before, and you killed the messenger because of the message. Again these may not have been intentional, but it is part of your auto-pilot response and default reaction. And because your moods and behavior undergo their closest observation and scrutiny. You are perceived as a toxic leader. A healthy workplace encourages good and healthy conversations, and some of the most creative ideas pop up in the process.

Make it a habit to STOP. PAUSE. AND LISTEN.

All those movie scenes wherein the glamorous or appealing star of the movie enters the office, an assistant hand over a cup of coffee, and then this star says, “Walk with me and tell me...” This may look and sound glamorous, but the problem is that you are not in a movie; if you do not take the time to listen to what your people are saying, then you are not even appealing and glamorous. When they know you value their opinion and take the time to listen to their concerns, this paves the way for healthy conversation and effective communication.

2. What you do and what you say is killing motivation.

Micromanaging kills motivation. Constantly engaged in conflicts, quarrels with heads, or bosses from other departments kill motivation. Mouthing a lot of “Motivational cliches” and jargon kill motivation. Constant complaining about the “bosses up there” or badmouthing the company kills motivation. And this one is horrible... Taking care of the self and ignoring your people’s needs is a great way to kill motivation and would instantly direct the people to watch out for themselves and disregard the interests of others or the company.

The clearest, loudest, and the most visible sign that you may be perceived as a “Toxic Leader” is:

3. Your people do not trust you.

Where there is no trust, there is no leadership. Everybody is just “play-acting.” A visible sign this is happening is that every time you walk into a room where your people are excitedly and energetically chatting about their day, they see you; suddenly, the room turns into a “chamber,” and the place resembles a library. Instead of including you, they stop speaking and pretend they are busy.

Every leader likes to be motivational rather than irritating, annoying or creepy, and toxic, and perhaps this assessment can help determine whether you are exercising effective leadership or not. Express care and show appreciation. After all, you would not be successful without your team, would you?

Simon Sinek says it succinctly: “Be the leader you wish you had.” And that about sums it all. In other words, do not be a toxic leader.



(Francis Kong runs his highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership 2.0 Master Class Online this Aug. 17-19.  For inquiries and reservations, contact April at +63928-559-1798 or and for more information, visit www.levelupleadership.ph)


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