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The 5 Typical Toxic Leadership Archetypes



An archetype represents a set or ingrained personal pattern of conduct, in this case, a toxic leader and their personality according to Andrew J Johnson and Theo H Veldsman. Many organizations are full of problematic leaders that poison their environment with their dysfunctional dynamics and unrealistic demands. Too often these behaviors are push to the side, especially if the company is profitable, as a matter of fact, some people tend to justify these behaviors as means of obtaining respect with the illusion that this can lead to performance improvement. But what is even more baffling is that some people are knowingly creating these environments and the ideal situations for the emergence and expansion of toxic behaviors.


I read an article that outlines the 5 typical toxic leadership archetypes from Andrew J Johnson and Theo H Veldsman’s book Leadership Dynamics and Well-being. It’s very insightful, and it totally underscores the fact that the behaviors of toxic leaders are a direct reflection of their inherent personality traits.


Here are the five typical Toxic leadership Archetypes found in many organizations today.


Cold Fish – Only The End Result Counts Nothing Else


The end justifies the means, however immoral. So any decision and action are justifiable in terms of the result desired.


Predominant Toxic Conduct

  • Lack of integrity

  • Demeaning/Devaluing

  • Punitive/Coercive

  • Abrasive/abusive

  • Excessive control


Snake – The World Is Mine, and It Serves Me


The devious manipulation of everyone and situations in order to satisfy personal needs and aspirations such as greed, status, and power.


Predominant Toxic Conduct

  • Lack of integrity

  • Manipulative/exploitative

  • Egocentric/self-serving

  • Divisive/elitist

  • Unpredictability/inconsistency


Glory Seeker – Personal Glory At All Cost


Personal glory and public visibility at any cost, at all times, regardless of any real, meaningful -personal contribution.


Predominant Toxic Conduct

  • Lack of integrity

  • Demeaning/Devaluing

  • Egocentric/self-serving

  • Divisive/elitist

  • Unpredictability/inconsistency


Puppet-master (power Monger) – Absolute Control Under All Circumstances


Absolute, centralized control over everything and anyone under all circumstances.


Predominant Toxic Conduct

  • Lack of integrity

  • Demeaning/Devaluing

  • Punitive/Devaluing

  • Punitive/Coercive

  • Manipulative/Exploitative

  • Excessive Control

  • Aloof/Distant


Monarch – Ruling My Personal Kingdom


Ruling the organization as if it is his /her personal kingdom. Everything is unconditionally and unquestionably available for his /her personal use.


Predominant Toxic Conduct

  • Lack of integrity

  • Punitive/Coercive

  • Manipulative/Exploitative

  • Aloof/Distant

  • Egocentric/self-serving


These traits clearly shows how a toxic leader’s personality manifest itself in their daily interaction with people and why it is so difficult for any toxic leader to become a true leader since leadership is found within; you can only fake for so long.


What true leaders do according to Amy Rees Anderson


True leaders have integrity. Integrity is the very core of their influence. Living the values, they profess to believe is what gives them credibility and allows others to place their trust in them. True leaders are able to say “do as I do” rather than just “do as I say”, because they lead by example.


True leaders work right alongside the people they lead in order to get to know and care about the people they are leading. Working with people allows leaders to lift and inspire their team. True leaders listen without being condescending. They are willing to hear what others have to say without rushing to judgment.


True leaders are forthright with their people. They communicate openly and often.


True leaders reprimand their people from a place of love and a genuine desire to help them improve. They reprimand without anger, and they relay feedback in a direct, yet kind and respectful way.

True leaders don’t control their people; they inspire them to do great things.


“True leaders understand that leadership is not about them but about those they serve. It is not about exalting themselves but about lifting others up.” –Sherry Dew

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About Gifford Thomas



I am the founder of Leadership First and the author of The Inspirational Leader, Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible. At Leadership First, we are committed to publishing the very best inspirational leadership quotes and articles to inspire our 330,000+ community of leaders to believe in the impossible, while creating an environment free from toxic, fearful and intimidating leadership. We believe everyone can and should enjoy their work, but it must start with the leadership leading by example. Follow our community of leaders HERE, and let's change the leadership status quo to help inspire and motivate our leaders to make a difference and create an organization their people will love.


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