Leadership is a commendable attribute to have in this economy that strives under deadlines. A leader is born anywhere, anytime,if they are crystal clear about how to lead and motivate a group of people assigned for tasks that lead to a common goal. But good leadership these days does not confine itself within the boundaries of getting work done; it is rather developed properly under the shelter of empathy, awareness, social responsibilities and individual character. However many mistake leadership as a justification for arrogance and exclusivity, and use it as a manipulative tool to develop asymmetrical power dynamics within a certain setup. That’s when toxic leadership emerges - the kind of leadership that intimidates more than it accommodates. But how to understand whether the leaders around us, or even we, are toxic or not?
The ideal face of a good leader is humble, modest and polite, but more often than not, these attributes are exclusively prevalent in theory. We have subconsciously normalised the presence of arrogance in a leader. Biplab Hasan, an ex-employee of Citibank, shared his experience, “This (arrogance) never allows growth for the associates. A leader should never be boasting of their abilities or experiences to establish their dominance. Rather, they should be clear and concise about what they expect from their teammates, be friendly and offer them help whenever they need. Often, a leader’s leadership style can be linked to their teammates’ self-esteem as well.”
The word ‘leader’ can often send mixed signals to people who don’t fully understand the concept of leadership. They could think of it as someone who needs to be righteous at all times. This idea is wrong.. A leader should divide work based on their teammates’ competencies and comfort, take their opinion before giving their own input and finally, reach a consensus that’s best and undisputed for the entire team or organisation. Sumaita Samreen, ex-employee of Asiatic JWT, says, working under an autocratic leader made her consider the decision of quitting. She adds “If someone is forcing you or manipulating you to think like they think and believe what they believe in without taking your opinions in it, you are probably working under an autocratic leader.”
Insolent people in general are toxic for any environment, but if it is the leader, it can seriously demoralise the entire team and their performance. If they humiliate, even if jokingly, it is a glaring signal of a leader being highly toxic, who can be responsible for disturbing one’s personal and professional growth.
A good leader will never want to establish a power distance between them and their teammates. In fact, they will always try to preemptively reduce it. Hierarchical leaders will always differentiate between them and their teammates, regardless of what their contributions are. If you find yourself feeling even the slightest amount of superiority over your teammates for no apparent reason, you’re probably an entitled, toxic leader.
A good leader is never discriminatory or biased towards a specific teammate. However, their biases and prejudices often appear in the guise of sexism, racism, ageism, and other discriminatory behaviour.
If you recognise any of these signs in yourself, you could possibly be a toxic leader who leads a group of dissatisfied teammates.