Destructive Leaders

Destructive Leaders

What is Destructive Leaders?

Destructive leaders is really a collection of symptoms of ill-fitting practices for the modern workplace. They result from misjudged or uninformed choices. Mostly the symptoms present themselves when a steward doesn’t shift along with the demands of today’s workforce and workplace expectations.


Their impacts on people and the organization vary, depending on the length the symptoms go unaddressed. If you think of destructive leaders like a disease, people and the organization can’t perform at their peak potential. This blog explains the impacts of destructive leaders in a team or company. 


Both are often distressed. Along with distress, a host of unpleasant outcomes dominate people’s experiences. Recovery from problems is slow.


In severe cases, people just can’t seem to shake the feeling that things just won’t get better. The negative feeling of the workplace is alienating. positivity is choked before it can even emerge.


Ultimately, the impacts of destructive leaders can be traced back to six symptoms:


Symptom 1: Blind Impact

A leader who is unaware of how her actions, attitude, and words impact others and result in damages any opportunity for workplace positivity.


Going a step further, the blind impact is a result of misusing the power of influence a leader has in having a positive impact on those with whom she interacts. She is unaware of the motivating importance of purpose, organizationally and personally.


She doesn’t consistently develop people or herself, as the value is underestimated. Often this symptom prevents a leader from connecting the dots between people’s work and organizational direction. The blind impact can easily emerge from a lack of one-on-one meetings or connection with others.


Symptom 2: Antisocial Leadership

This is not antisocial in the psychological sense, a dysfunction of thinking about and perceiving social situations or relating to people.


Rather, I am referring to a leader’s resistance to embrace social behaviors illuminated by social technology. This symptom is all about one’s inability to encourage, build, and evolve a community of people united by a shared purpose.


The first example of behavior that demonstrates antisocial leader-ship is an autocratic style. It’s easier for this type of leader to dictate what people should do. He may even distrust people. His interpersonal skills may be awkward. This person is unaware of his voice as a leader and how to use it for good.


This symptom adversely impacts the work environment by creating a void of connectedness, or relatedness. An antisocial leader doesn’t stop long enough to see the value of relationships among his employees and peers.


positivity cannot emerge when antisocial beliefs and actions dominate, including an unawareness of the importance to engage with the external community where the organization does business.


The powerful uses of social technology are epitomized by people’s willingness to unconditionally give back to others. On Twitter, people will help promote another person’s work and ask nothing in return. In the workplace, the dynamic is obviously different, but the sentiment is the same, but not for an antisocial leader.


Such a leader may blatantly take credit for another person’s or group’s work. He may also not see the need to give praise for the good work of others. 


Taking, as a symptom of antisocial leadership, reduces the interaction between people as purely transactional. It leaves people feeling used. It has a negative impact on workplace positivity.


Symptom 3: Chronic Change Resistance

What’s destructive about this symptom is the leader’s unwillingness to initiate change to help her team and the organization remain relevant.


The seduction of the status quo overpowers rational thoughts and actions. And if the change is adopted, it’s usually late in the change-adoption curve. With this leader in charge, only incremental change is possible.


Symptom 4: Profit Myopia

Another symptom of destructive leaders is the outdated belief that profit is the only success measure. Leaders with profit myopia are short-term focused to a fault. Their teams chase solutions that satisfy shareholders and/or short-term goals, alienating customers and employees.


Taking a chink out of the optimistic workplace is this leader’s narrow focus on his own personal income and rewards. These are more important than inspiring employees. Furthermore, such a pursuit insulates the leader from realizing that other motivators beyond money are important.


Symptom 5: Constipated Inspiration

Much like blind impact, this symptom stems from a lack of awareness. The leader is unsure of how to inspire people on her team.


Often she is too focused on her own needs, giving little attention to what her employees experience when at work. As a result, she doesn’t see what demotivates or what inspires people.


At the core of constipated inspiration is ignorance of personal values. If a leader knew what she stood for, she’d have more awareness of who she is. Consequently, she would have a greater capacity for learning about the people on her team.


On an organizational level, this leader stifles innovation and creativity. Neither can exist in an uninspired environment. There is an absence of energy when inspiration isn’t in the work environment.


Symptom 6: Silo Syndrome

The final symptom of destructive leaders may not be the most costly, but it’s quite common. Silo syndrome afflicts a leader when he cannot see beyond his immediate responsibilities. Also, silo syndrome blinds a leader from seeing the impacts of work on other people’s lives. 


With this symptom, a leader is unaware of or doesn’t care how work life affects employees’ family lives. There is no healthy mix of the two worlds. Work dominates; personal time suffers from neglect.


Also common with this syndrome is seeing people merely as a role:

People in sales know nothing about marketing; customer service employees know nothing about operations. Silo syndrome is like a mental shortcut:


It reduces things to their simplest form to quickly make sense of them. We don’t challenge our mental shortcuts; we assume they are correct. Often the logic is spotty, and the conclusions are misinformed.


It’s common to hear stories of disrespected, mistreated, and ignored employees. Simply look at the impact found in global employee engagement numbers. Or worse yet, the proliferation of passive management, the old-school type, that fails to address bad behaviors and performance that lead to mediocrity.


Destructive leaders are made up of disruptors to positivity in the workplace. They distract you and your team from experiencing fulfillment in work and from ultimately creating the value the organization needs.



Before we look at what you can do to counter destructive leaders and shift your beliefs about your role as a steward, let’s examine the mindset necessary to confront those beliefs.


To start, what comes to mind about your ability to create workplace positivity? What words or phrases would you use to describe attempting it? “Impossible”?


“Who am I kidding”? “I can’t do this; they don’t pay me enough”? Or perhaps you think to yourself, “This will be tough, but it’s worth the effort.” “It’s important to work; I need to figure this out.”


I ask you these questions to reveal how you might view yourself in terms of cultivating workplace positivity. Your answer will make a difference in your outcomes.


In her blog Mindset, Carol Dweck explains the difference between people who have a fixed or growth mindset.


A person with a fixed mindset—the belief that people are born with a set of skills that are fixed, unchanging—may never start the work to create a positive environment.


A person with a fixed mindset avoids challenges and deems them not worth taking if he doesn’t believe he already has the leadership skills to do it. From her research, Dweck has learned that we can change our mindset beginning with awareness of how we see and interpret the world.


If you have a growth mindset, you believe hard work can lead to improvement. In fact, a person with a growth mindset believes it’s essential to put forward the effort to master the skills to create work-place positivity.


It is your choice, however, to determine the mindset necessary to shape the context that supports people in doing their best work. The reality of creating and sustaining a great place to work takes effort; it takes a growth mindset.


Employees will question your intentions. You will need to stretch yourself. Your peers will warn against the dangers of getting your team’s hopes up.

The status quo will want you to enforce it. Others will be threatened. But you can approach overcoming the barriers to positivity by adopting a growth mindset. A leader with a growth mindset believes that:

  1. Skills come from hard work and can always be improved.
  2. Human potential is unlimited.
  3. The effort is required to expand knowledge and accomplish goals.
  4. Challenges are growth opportunities.
  5. Feedback from the team and peers is necessary for your growth.
  6. Setbacks should be anticipated and used to help make decisions in the future; one should be adaptable to change.


I’ve made multiple claims about the choice and the difficulty inherent in creating workplace positivity. It may not be difficult for you and where you work. What is most important in this vital leadership challenge is that you choose the growth mindset.


A growth mindset will strengthen you when you face obstacles and enhance your excitement when you and your team achieve your goals, or when you fail from a mistake and learn quickly what to do differently next time.


Destructive Leaders Impacts

What are the outcomes from destructive leaders that have a choke hold on the workplace? Certainly, they vary from organization to organization. The following list includes some of the biggies.


The list reflects the costs of working for an organization or in a team where outcomes from bad leaders have gone unaddressed and removed positivity as a possibility.


1. Unsatisfying Home Life. The stress from working long hours and the expectation of having to do so often results in distractedness when at home, disrupting harmony and separation from work life.


2. Distress. Instead of benefiting from good stress, or eustress, employees at all levels experience burnout, physical ailments, even fatigue. The influence of eustress is biological as well as mental and ultimately impacts our performance inside and outside of work. With eustress, a person can cope effectively with the pressures of stress.


3. Apathy. The lack of interest or concern employees feels toward the meaning of work or the impact they can have.


4. Dysfunctional Relationships. The feeling of belonging diminishes as people don’t experience connection in their interactions with team members and executives.


5. Broken Trust.

Disbelief in what the business stands for and the intentions, actions, and words of others are pervasive. Employees at all levels question intentions and decisions, which strains relationships and adversely impacts progress in work.


6. Unclear Goals and Priorities.

Because of short-term thinking, and in some cases a dysfunctional need to please shareholders, a company may change strategic or operational directions with little explanation of why leaving people uncertain of the value of their effort. Progress in work slows down, and engagement and hope diminish.


7. The scarcity of Loyalty.

This is not a millennial stereotype but a workforce trend stemming from disbelief in the good the company does for its employees and those whom they serve.


The outcomes of destructive leaders are too easily dismissed as workplace realities. They are viewed by traditional managers as necessary outcomes of the pursuit of profit and efficiencies.


These realities fester and create a work environment that diminishes people and their ability to apply their strengths and talents to their work.


However, as stewards, we can no longer overlook the costs of bad leaders decisions. A competitive advantage is created by the proactive steward who decides to create workplace positivity in response to the realities of today’s uninspired workplaces.



“How deeply do I care about our common future? How do I actually make a positive difference?” These are questions leaders are asked to answer at Luck Companies. These questions are not rhetorical—they are central to the aggregate company’s values-based leadership philosophy.


Employees are expected to know the answers to the above questions and are provided the tools and learning opportunities to look within themselves and honestly answer them.


Mark Fernandes, chief leadership officer, says, “The single biggest [influence] on how leaders show up day in and day out” is when leaders know their personal values. He goes on to explain that the company believes making money is a result of helping employees create meaning in their work and in their


Making money is a result of helping employees create meaning in their work and in their personal lives. —Mark Fernandes personal lives.


Luck’s leadership model must be working—it contributes to a 91 percent associate engagement score as measured by the Hay Group. Compare this to the global average engagement score of 28 percent.


So, what lessons can we glean from the strong work Fernandes and Luck are doing? For starters, creating a strong, positive work climate relies on leaders who know their personal values, align their actions with the company’s mission, and develop a love affair with employees.


A great place for you to start is to identify your values so you can know and show them in your day-to-day stewardship of your team.


At the heart of Luck’s values-based leadership model is what the company calls “Leader Being” and “Leader Doing.” Leader Being focuses on who the leader is as a human being.


While some organizations ignore this aspect of leadership and pass it off as “soft,” Luck takes on this deeply personal investigation; the organization supports leaders’ introspective exploration through 360-degree assessments and values and personality assessments.


A leader’s introspective exploration into their being is then made into hard performance measures that apply to frontline leaders through to the C-suite. Luck has created a VBL Index that indicates how well leaders are leading and is used to help make compensation and succession decisions.


Two-thirds of a leader’s pay is determined by values-based leadership. One-third is based on a yearly, 360-degree assessment, looking to see if the leader is walking the talk. The second third is based on the leader’s team engagement results. The engagement survey measures how the leader is impacting work and the company’s associates.


The company’s CEO considers the day engagement results are posted to be the “most important day” for the organization. Think of it as a report on the state of the organization. Finally, the last third of the index is based on business results—sales and cash-flow margins, for example.


Luck’s Leader Doing portion of its philosophy focuses on the demands of the job. It’s tied to the final third of the VBL Index. Fernandes­says Luck is constantly evaluating “how we balance the quest for profits and what’s right for our people.”


What’s important about Fernandes’s Unpredictable behaviors cause concern, diminish trust, and weaken chances of others seeking you out for guidance. Where Luck stands apart from most organizations is in its belief that it must also generate value for its people.


Identifying, knowing, and showing your values help prepare you to be a more effective, compassionate, and understanding steward. In short, you are more relatable because of a deeper, evolving awareness of what you stand for, which attracts and appeals to others. To identify, know, and show your values helps guide your decision-making process.


Harvard Business School professor and former CEO of Medtronics Bill George explains in his blog True North that doing these things helps you find your direction as a leader. Knowing your values helps guide your interactions with your employees, family, and friends.


Unlike in my interaction with the chief human resources officer, where I hadn’t identified my personal values, you can draw upon your values to shape conversations and influence your behaviors by modeling a more encouraging way to show up as a leader—your Leader Being.


Another important benefit of being a values-based steward is increased consistency. When others can rely on your mostly predictable ways of being, their confidence and trust in you increase. Erratic or unpredictable behaviors cause concern, diminish trust, and weaken chances of others seeking you out for guidance. This scenario is useless to a steward.


When it comes to creating a positive work environment, employee well-being is a central driver. Knowing your values is critical. They promote the exploration of your true self and help you live in accordance with that person.


Expanding on this idea, when you live in accordance with your true self and exert effort to do good, virtuous work, you experience being fully alive, fulfilled, and doing what you’re meant to do.