It’s common practice to constantly focus on increasing positive traits in ourselves and, as leaders, in others. You read books on leadership and the attributes that could possibly make you a good or even great leader. What you don’t often hear about are those traits that absolutely destroy leadership. They don’t just destroy leadership, they destroy morale, camaraderie, productivity and much more! There are a multitude of these “killers of leadership” and I’m sure if we all sat in an open discussion, we could comprise an endless list. Right now, I simply want to focus on four. I feel it’s important as a leader to not only recognize these toxic traits within ourselves for proper growth but, it’s also very important to recognize them within the organization. After all, as a leader, it is your responsibility to set the tone for morale and growth. Letting traits such as the ones I am about to list go unaddressed will slowly deteriorate any organization. Listed below (in no specific order) are four traits that I feel are some of the most toxic when it comes to undermining a cohesive and productive work environment.
Jealousy/Envy- This seems to be very prevalent in most organizations. From a leadership standpoint it is important that you do not become jealous of others progression or success. It’s your job to facilitate growth, not stifle it. One thing I’ve seen so many times is a leader who refuses to share knowledge of their job in the attempt to make themselves look like the only subject matter expert within the organization. This stems from jealousy. They’re jealous and extremely insecure about the possibility of someone learning the position and replacing them. Don’t be that guy/girl! Lead and train your subordinates to the highest level. Keep learning yourself to stay ahead of things and LEAD them and you’ll have no reason to be jealous or insecure.
Laziness- You can’t have a lazy leader! It’s that simple. Leadership is about setting the example which means taking the time to understand all positions, responsibilities, tasks, etc. of everyone under your charge. I’m not saying you have to know every detail of all positions. I’m saying you have to put the time in so that you understand what your workforce is dealing with. This will prevent you from setting unreasonable deadlines and due dates and over tasking your employees. Many years ago I was given the sound advice of “It should be your goal to work your way out of a job.” You probably have the “that makes no sense face” right now; just like I did and most everyone I’ve said that to since. I’ll explain: You should have the mindset and the work ethic to put so much time in that you learn most everything, become proficient in most everything, know where to find the answers you don’t retain and from there you will be in a perfect position to properly delegate and provide oversight in all situations. It’s a perfect place to be in but it takes time and a lot, and I mean a lot, of work! Lazy leaders never get to this point.
Lack of Integrity- You may be surprised that I even choose to mention this on the list. After all, how could a leader lack integrity? Well, anyone who lacks integrity is not a leader but this does not mean they do not fill leadership roles within an organization. In most cases when you read the term “lack of integrity” you may immediately think of someone who embezzles money, commits larceny by taking items from the organization that do not belong to them or anything else along those lines. But lack of integrity can be much more harmful than that. Imagine working for someone who gives you direction on action to take on a project. Although you are not in agreement you follow through and the project fails miserably, losing a lot of money as well. The upper echelon of leadership addresses you and your boss at which point he/she takes no responsibility for what happen. In fact, they even act surprised and paint a picture that you took those actions on your own accord, taking zero responsibility for what happened. This lack of integrity will slowly but surely deteriorate an organization!
Vindictiveness- A great leader does not have a zero-defect mentality towards their personnel. Humans are imperfect and prone to mistakes. A vindictive leader is someone who forgot the mistakes they made along the way but is more than happy to point out your flaws. No one woke up with a wealth of knowledge in their field. Subject matter experts are made not only from studying and hands-on experience but largely from the mistakes they’ve made along the way. A true leader is humble enough to learn from their mistakes and even share those mistakes with those they lead so they are not repeated. A vindictive leader will continuously hold your mistakes against you. Even worse, a leader with this trait will blame you and hold things against you that THEY did!
There are many toxic traits that can affect the morale, productivity and overall personality of an organization. The four listed above are simply to highlight some of what I feel are the most toxic. As a leader your job is not only to make sure you are not exhibiting these traits but to also be able to recognize them anywhere within the organization; even looking up to those leading you! Being a leader is constant growth, never forget that. If you feel you are sometimes showing signs of these toxic traits, I suggest you deal with it and look to grow past it immediately. Toxic leaders or those who are toxic but in leadership roles I should say, do not stay there for long!