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3 destructive leadership pdf

The article discusses destructive leadership and the hand of followers in it.

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3 destructive leadership pdf

  1. 1. Destructive Leadership: Are you the sheep, the yes-person, the alienated, the pragmatic or a star follower? By Sanam Reza Theodore Roosevelt Jr., an American statesman, author, explorer, soldier, naturalist, and historian who served as the 26th President of the United States once said, “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives”. Hart Consultancy (Business Psychologists) defines leadership as “the ability to build and/or maintain a high performing team” and so they identify destructive leadership in the most general terms as “the behavior that undermines or destroys the effectiveness of a team”. Hart Consultancy identifies three levels in the organizational hierarchy where destructive leaders may exist. “First line supervisors destroy their teams almost exclusively through their behavior. There is a reasonably well defined taxonomy of bad managerial behavior captured by our dark side measure of personality (Hogan & Hogan, 2009); these behaviors include: bullying, harassing, exploiting, lying, betraying, manipulating-in short, denying subordinates their basic humanity. These behaviors alienate the subordinates, who in response, engage in a wide range
  2. 2. of passive aggressive behaviors that undermine the performance of the team. They also retaliate actively with law suits and, at times, direct violence”. Destructive leaders at the second or middle level have the same scope and in addition, they can make bad tactical decisions that lead to destruction of the entire team; which is basically through exercising bad judgment. “The scope of the damage created by bad tactical decisions is relatively limited; examples would include: the coach of a football team calling for an obviously wrong defensive formation; a fourth grade teacher focusing on music and ignoring math; a mid- level manager routinely overspending the budget”. Senior leaders have much greater discretion to act destructively (Kaiser & Hogan, 2006). They can avail themselves of the full range of behavioral options like the first-line and mid-managers but, “it is at the level of strategic decision making that senior managers can be most destructive, and in ways that vastly exceed the capacity of lower level managers to be destructive. Strategic decisions fall into two categories: decisions about staffing and decisions about direction”. Hart Consultancy believes that examples of disastrous strategic decisions are almost endless: “Napoleon and Hitler decided to invade Russia in the winter, at the cost of millions of lives and the ends of their empires. Leo Apotheker, immediately after becoming CEO of Hewlett-Packard, decided to take HP out of computers and into the software business, appointing a mate from SAP with no background in computers to run the computer business. Or consider George Bush‟s decision to invade Iraq and put Donald Rumsfeld in charge. On the other hand, in terms of organizational effectiveness, if a CEO makes good strategic decisions, then the consequences of his/her brutalizing the staff are minimized. An example would be the case of Steve Jobs at Apple”. But, these leaders are not always to be blamed entirely. No one person is ever solely responsible for actions that involve so many people. It is the people, the employees or any other party around these leaders that we bring under the microscope. „How to spot a destructive leader‟ by Andrew and Nada Kakabadse (2003) supports similar ideas to Krasikova, Green & LeBreton
  3. 3. (2013) about the manifestations of destructive leadership. They suggested that destructive behaviour does not entirely originate from leaders but, also from their supporters. Lack of self-awareness in both the follower and the leader has a strong hand in letting a destructive leader walk along such a path. The supporters do not reflect on themselves to identify whether they, as a follower themselves are contributing to this destructive cyclic behaviour. In addition, the paper also suggested that the environment and culture of any work place could further facilitate unattractive characteristics in a leader. Another way followers can also contribute to a leader‟s destructive ways is when they themselves, consciously or unconsciously, are incompetent, in frustration; a leader may turn to destructive methods to reach a desired goal, where they have failed to accomplish goals through non-destructive methods. There are situations where your team as a whole is not active enough and no amount of positive leadership pushes them towards achieving the goal. This may be interpreted as destructive leadership to some. Companies with board of directors actually do interfere, when someone‟s leadership is destructive, bringing in losses instead of profit. Further study shows destructive leadership possibly leads to dictatorship. According to the six leadership styles of Goleman, he revealed one of six leadership styles is the coercive leader. The study is broadly reliable with the summary that not all charismatic leaders are destructive, but most destructive leaders are charismatic. He concludes, the destructive style can be effective in some situations such as, in a company turnaround, a takeover attempt, or during a particular emergency. This style can also help to control a problem of teamwork. „Rethinking Followership‟ by Robert E. Kelley; suggests there are five kinds of followers; the sheep, the yes-people, the alienated, the pragmatics, and the star followers. Kelley insists in this that followers are more in a position to identify and fight destructive leadership. Rather than taking orders, someone with a courageous conscience and self awareness can help a destructive leader to use more positive methods.
  4. 4. „The Sheep‟ are passive and require external motivation from the leader. These individuals lack commitment and require constant supervision from the leader. „The Yes-People‟ are committed to the leader and the goal (or task) of the organization (or group/team). These conformist individuals do not question the decisions or actions of the leader. They will defend adamantly their leader when faced with opposition from others. „The Pragmatics‟ are not trail-blazers; they will not stand behind controversial or unique ideas until the majority of the group has expressed their support. These individuals often remain in the background of the group. „The Alienated‟ are negative and often attempt to stall or bring the group down by constantly questioning the decisions and actions of the leader. These individuals often view themselves as the rightful leader of the organization and are critical of the leader and fellow group members. Lastly, „The Star Followers‟ are the exemplary individuals who are positive, active, and independent thinkers. Star followers will not blindly accept the decisions or actions of a leader until they have evaluated them completely. Furthermore, these types of followers can succeed without the presence of a leader. John Calvin Maxwell, an American author, speaker, and pastor who has written many books, primarily focusing on leadership describes a leader as “the one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”. Sometimes, great leaders may go off track due to two identified reasons; insecurity or arrogance. Whatever the reason, a star follower is someone who actually cares and is dedicated to the goal of the company. These star followers can actually help the leaders realize why they hold such a position and show the alternatives to their desired decisions. The star followers are the future leaders or as Multiple Attributions says “You don‟t need a title to be a leader”, they are leaders in disguise. Destructive leadership is not a mental condition and they are not someone to be afraid of. Destructive leaders are merely someone whose judgment may have been clouded recently and it is the responsibility of the people surrounding him or her to help these great leaders remember their position. The American statesman and the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and
  5. 5. become more, you are a leader.” These leaders need the reminder of how they reached that position; it is because of their good judgment, their dedication to grow the company and its employees, and their long-term visions they are the leader. Followers, or in this case employees in the lower hierarchy; seem to act as bystanders when a leader is being destructive. Barbara Kellerman in „Organizational Structure: What Every Leader Needs to Know About Followers‟, Harvard Business Review, discusses about these usual bystanders, somewhat like „The Pragmatic‟, and blaming attitude of followers. She says, “These free riders deliberately stand aside and disengage, both from their leaders and from their groups or organizations. They may go along passively when it is in their self-interest to do so, but they are not internally motivated to engage in an active way. Their withdrawal also amounts to tacit support for whoever and whatever constitutes the status quo. Bystanders can drag down the rest of the group or organization. They are perfectly aware of what is going on around them; they just choose not to take the time, the trouble, or, to be fair, sometimes the risk to get involved. A notorious example from the public sector is people who refuse to intervene when a crime is being committed; commonly referred to as the Genovese syndrome or the bystander effect. There are bystanders everywhere and, they tend to go unnoticed, especially in large organizations, because they consciously choose to fly under the radar. In the workplace, silent but productive bystander followers can be useful to managers who just want people to do as they are told but, they will inevitably disappoint those bosses who want people to actually care about the organization‟s mission. There are ways to bring bystanders along, however. The key is to determine the root causes of their alienation and offer appropriate intrinsic or extrinsic rewards that may increase their levels of engagement, and, ultimately, their productivity.” According to Fast Company, the five ways to be a good follower are; awareness, diplomacy, courage, collaboration, and critical thinking. Leaders need to be connected to their identity and their old self, so that they can always rely on those instincts that they have used before. Followers need to be more self aware and not blame their leaders all the time. Self awareness exercises should be compulsory on a regular basis by the companies. Steve Jobs once said,
  6. 6. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower” therefore, companies should be on the look-out for those star followers to use them productively and consider their ideas, to help them grow to be the next leader. [Check out the video by Tedx Des Moines on „Why do good leaders go bad” by Jann Freed at:] Rotarian Sanam Reza is a business graduate of International Trade from Victoria University, Melbourne, and holds a Master of Business and Commerce degree from University of Western Sydney, Sydney.