Toxic Leadership

Toxic Leadership, How To Not Fall In The Trap?

Leadership is an art if practiced well, and the emphasis is most definitely on practice! If you follow my blogs regularly you will understand that a foundation of a good leader is a large amount of emotional intelligence. This article is no different, it’s about looking in the mirror and truly understanding how we lead our teams and how they perceive us as leaders.

We currently live in a very fast paced, results focused environment. With lots of external pressures today’s leaders are pulled in lots of different directions. Having been a senior leader for nearly 20 years I can relate to this and how easy it is to fall into the trap as I call it.

What is the trap?

The way we lead and govern is born ultimately from our emotional intelligence and the ability to really understand ourselves first and foremost. The leaders who have a good level of EI will recognise when their behaviour is impacting or about to impact others.

The trap is what it is, a trap! it’s so easy under pressure to be a leader that you don’t really want to be. It could be the boss demanding an improvement in something, staffing issues or something completely different. The key thing here is pressure and whenever that is applied its how you deal with it before is allowed to spread toxicity through the team.

Have a read of this article and it will explain nicely how toxicity destroys organisations and what a typical toxic leader looks like.

What are the consequences of toxic leadership?

As you will read in the above link, if left unchecked toxic leadership will ultimately destroy an organisation. Here are some examples of what you would see and recognise in a toxic environment:

  • Unpleasant working environment, for a toxic leader nothing is ever good enough and this stifles passion, commitment and innovation.
  • Isolation, everyone looks after themselves. This in turn stifles any team ethic or culture of working together.
  • Short term focus, generally the leader just wants to deliver the results and this drives the team to jerk from KPI to KPI. There is no future strategy or plan.
  • Seems normal, if toxicity is deep rooted in the organisation it can seem normal behaviour and people growing through the ranks will learn this.
  • Talent leaves, research shows that talented people leave when they can no longer connect to the employers mission or values. A toxic leader is unlikely to make a talented person feel connected to the oragnisations mission and values.

How to steer clear of the trap?

This is very much about you sticking to your personal values and having a high level of emotional intelligence. Lets face it unless you are a CEO it’s unlikely you can change the whole company culture but you can do what’s important to you and your teams.

This could mean in some cases leaving the organisation you are part of as you cant influence enough change high up, what ever you do its about doing the right thing.

My call out here though is to CEOs and executives reading this, the power held at this level to change oraganisational culture is immense. 99% of business leaders will understand the right thing to do but wont do it as it generally takes longer. This is however doing the right thing for the people who work for you long term and not just about your bonus or city expectation…… do the right thing!

How do you do the right thing?

Practice, practice and practice again! Outside the business world many people understand how vital good practice becomes. Athletes, for example, do it all the time as a matter of course. People who perform, or play sports, or music, they all see the value of practice. But in business, almost everyone wants to be good right away. They don’t want to spend time going over what already happened.

So here are some tips to help: Spend 15 minutes per day in reflection, and by this I mean true reflection in a quiet place and somewhere you feel relaxed and comfortable. Make sure during this time you have no external distractions such as mobile phone or an inbox.

Take this time to review the events of the previous day and make plans for the one coming up. You can write these observations down if you want. You can reference your calendar to reflect on the day’s interactions and prepare for tomorrow’s. Whatever will ground you in the ritual.

At the end of every week run the same exercise for an hour, only this time reflecting on the past week as a whole and considering the the challenges and opportunities of the week ahead.

To a busy leader, taking a whole hour might seem like a waste. But that’s exactly the type of leader who can’t afford to not take the time.

So hopefully you can see from this that toxic leadership is very much in the power of the beholder, in fact it boils down to will and if you seriously care about the teams you lead and nurture. Toxicity is like a disease, at first all will seem ok and then slowly the rot will set in and disaster will ultimately prevail!

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Hi! I`m Chris Webb, I live in the South East and started Leaders Retail Consultancy in 2019. Before freelancing, I was a senior retail leader for a number of the UK’s top retailers gaining experience over 23 glorious years. When I am not coaching I enjoy spending time with the family or in the gym.

Click here for more information about Leaders Retail Consultancy


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