Do you have toxic leadership in your business?

Updated on 8 February 2017

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Do you have toxic leadership in your businessCould you have a narcissistic leader in your organisation? Or worse, are you one yourself?

While narcissism has been associated with superstar CEOs like Steve Jobs, current global politics has, however, brought the dangerous side of narcissist leadership to the fore.

“Generally, this form of leadership is a self-centred form of leadership where the enjoyment of influencing others (having power over others); and meeting selfish desires are primary motivators. The outcome of this is that others (followers and colluders) are often short-changed over time,” writes Dr. Paul Vorster of The Ethics Institute in an article on toxic leadership.

Perhaps the most significant is the impact that this style of leadership can have on the team dynamic. Within a small business, the actions of a toxic leader can have a devastating effect not only on the morale of its staff but also on the bottom line.

[Toxic leadership] can fester into dysfunctional and destructive office politics, says Dr Renate Volpe, an expert in the area of people development, leadership and change management and ‎CEO of Dr R Volpe Leadership Consulting.

Dr Volpe, who is also co-author of Senseless Sacrifice – Givers and Takers in Relationships, a book that deals with understanding and managing toxic relationships says every workplace has politics, the distinction is whether it’s healthy or dysfunctional.

Dysfunctional politics generally, maintain the status quo, promote groupthink, advance the individual agenda at the expense of others, and avoid, confuse or prevent custodianship of assets, people and relationships, she says.

In stark contrast to dysfunctional politics, healthy politics advance the organization’s agenda, she says. Healthy politics are appropriate and future-orientated, enhance individual resilience and enhance sense-making, Dr Volpe adds.

“People who suffer most under such circumstances are naïve, are highly principled and strive to live their values”

Dr Volpe answers questions about what to look for in a toxic leader, their greater impact and how to run a healthier workplace.

Q: How do I know if I am dealing with a toxic leader? 
A toxic leader has a big ego. They have narcissistic, sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies. They cannot demonstrate empathy and compassion and have a selfish agenda. The ends justify the means in their mentality.

Q: What are the biggest causes of dysfunctional office politics within my business?
A boss’ job is to identify obstacles in the way employees facilitate their work and remove the obstacles, when actions are driven by a competitive win or lose or egoistic mentality dysfunctional politics will prevail.

Q: What should I look for to assess if the political climate in my business is constructive or destructive?
[A healthy climate] means that rules are abided by and that people of good will prevail. Power in action equals influence which equals politics, [so] when the agenda is personal and underhanded this is defined as bad politics.

When the agenda is on behalf of a business unit or a business and contributes to future sustainability, productivity, meaningfulness and resilience this is defined as good politics.

Q: How do I turn a dysfunctional office environment into a healthier one?
The business owner should attend courses on personal mastery read personal development books and improve [themselves]. Simply because only as far as one can take oneself can one lead another.

Q: Can my business can survive toxic leadership?
People who suffer most under such circumstances are naïve, are highly principled and strive to live their values. They make the mistake of presuming that the narcissistic user persona has the same values principles and conscience that they do. This is not so.

Q: What kind of impact are the millennial generation’s particular traits having on office politics?
The new generation has an immediate gratification inclination. Everything is now! As such delayed gratification and discipline are in short measure.

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