Is Your Organization Enabling Dysfunctional Leadership?



It is very easy to think that the responsibility of dysfunctional leadership lies solely with the dysfunctional leader in question. However, as we explore this topic further, we find that there are other factors involved.

Did you know that there are certain things that an organization does, unknowingly, that enables dysfunctional leadership? Let's take a look at a few of these today.

  • Goals - Our organizational goal-setting process is broken, and this process is a primary driver behind dysfunctional leadership. When goals are not shared across the organization, this creates a competitive environment full of silos. In addition when compensation is tied to these individual goals, it creates a selfish drive in leaders to win, no matter the cost. This cost could be at the expense of their peers with different goals, or the expense of the resources/followers needed to meet the goals. One way to combat this is: shared organizational goals, then an imperative for all departments to create individual goals that will contribute and enable the organization to meet the shared goals. It is AMAZING what leaders and teams can do when they are all working towards a shared vision and see how their contribution really makes a difference.


  • Lack of accountability systems - As a CEO or executive, it's virtually impossible to know how each leader performs in their daily interactions with their teams and co-workers. Trust me on this one - those leaders that you need to hold accountable, will not exhibit the same behaviors in front of you that are undermining your culture. Barbara Kellerman states in her book Bad Leadership, that in order "to contain the dark side of human nature, some sort of structure must be imposed." Organizations must have a system in place to be able to identify areas of leadership dysfunction, require personal and leadership development training, and a consistent plan in place to aggressively address areas of dysfunction when found. One key way to do this is to perform a 360 degree survey on all of your leaders. There must be questions related to trust. Analytical minds with extensive knowledge in leadership must review every single result. Where there is ANY sign of trust not existing between the leader and superior, leader and co-workers, and leader and followers, you must drill into and start peeling back the layers of the onion.


  • Cultural values - While your organization may have values such as people, customer, integrity, etc. documented in black and white, it is more about the values that are underlying that most, including executives, are grossly unaware exist in the culture. For instance, if your culture is one that avoids uncertainty, which means to feel threatened by ambiguity, then this is a breading ground for dark leaders to emerge. Why? Because these dark leaders are often well suited to provide structure, rituals, and rules that make superiors and followers feel "safe" in the midst of ambiguity. Another cultural factor that breeds dysfunction, is one that has a high power-distance ratio. This means that there is a large social and financial disparity between leadership and followers. This could mean that your executives hold a very high education level, but are directly responsible for low education level. The same holds true for finances. Large disparities between your leaders and followers allow for a sense of greater authority to be given by the leader, and when tolerated by organization and followers, can breed a form of tyranny.

A wide range of characteristics from the systems in place, climate, culture, goals, incentives, metrics, vision, mission, and strategic planning can contribute to an environment in which dysfunctional leaders are tolerated.

Leadership dysfunction that goes undetected is just like cancer - the longer it goes undetected, the more it spreads, and the more difficult it is to contain or cure.

We are called to proactively address the areas within our organizations that could be contributing to this epidemic. We are called to put systems in place that help us identify where our problem areas lie. We are called to develop, grow, and build up leaders in a society that is thirsty for strong leadership. Could this be your organization?


If you don't know where to start, I can help. I have at my disposal a strong 360 degree assessment that can be given to all leaders. I have expertise that can analyze results to help identify and uncover problem areas. In addition, I can provide leadership development and coaching in the areas necessary. Don't let your organization crumble because of toxicity that you've allowed to breed year after year, let's begin transforming your organization through intentional, purposeful leadership today!

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Lead Strong 4:14 | hcasey@leadstrong414.com | Rome, Georgia | 404.944.9861

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