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The 6 Characteristics Of A Toxic Leader

In 2012, Cherie was working for an organization that handled traffic cameras although the work was somewhat fulfilling, she describes her former boss as a “horrible, abusive, and narcissistic” individual who thrived on belittling his employees in public. “On numerous occasions, he set me and my colleagues up to look inept to our CIO,” she says. But the last straw, according to Cherie was when he mocked her for reporting a bed bug bite to HR. Cherie indicated that their building was infested with them and although she eventually reported him to HR, they did nothing, Cherie eventually quit the company.

An often-cited Gallup study of more than 27 million employees revealed that more than half of American employees have left their jobs because of a bad manager. That means that there is no shortage of toxic companies and toxic leaders. According to RODERIC YAPP, toxic leaders are self-serving, do not care about the organization or the people within it and they treat people as a vehicle to help them get where they want.

They run ‘informal power networks’ as a means of finding out what is going on in the organization so that they can take advantage of it. Often this is disguised as ‘mentoring’ people outside of their teams. It can be quite successful in the short-term but over the long-term, they fail their organizations because they don’t develop strong leaders and high performing teams.

According to Padilla, Hogan, and Kaiser, there are six characteristics of a toxic leader I will share with you as outlines by RODERIC YAPP. Study these characteristics carefully because they will help you identify toxic leadership and by extension toxic cultures.


The leader makes the most out of their position and authority to make things happen. They impose their will without stopping to consider the ideas and opinions that come from their team. They are focused on maintaining tight control and are intolerant of mistakes falsely assuming that the same mistake would not happen to them. This, coupled with a lack of trust in their subordinates, means that they don’t delegate. Communication tends to be directive and top-down rather than ‘two-way’.