Always win…

Training Primary Care NHS GPs The Allure of Toxic Leaders

Thinking of a bit of holiday reading?

You’ll romp through the drunken-private-detective, bodice ripper in no time. How about something a bit more heavy-weightish.

In the light of developing events, I’d like to suggest something?

It’s by Jean Lipman-Blumen; The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians and How We Can Survive Them.

There are a lot of books on leadership… why they are like they are. This book looks at us and why we follow them.

Lipman-Blumen argues;

‘… these leaders appeal to our deepest needs, playing on our anxieties and fears, on our yearnings for security, high self-esteem, and significance, and on our desire for noble enterprises and immortality.’

A phrase comes to mind; ‘make our country great again’.

We assume ‘leaders’ know more. Managers, politicians know more, ministers know more. In a lifetime of experience, I can tell you, mostly they don’t.

You know more about the NHS and how it runs than No18,19 or 20.

People who use food banks know more about living a life in 21st Century Britain.

The growing numbers of homeless on the streets know why they are there and how we might have stopped it, if only we would listen.

Minorities working in the services will tell you how they struggle with their careers and how to change it.

The manager recruited or headhunted to run ‘your-place’ will never know as much as you do, have your hinterland of knowledge and experiences.

We assume people in the position of leadership are leaders. They seldom are.

We turn to charismatic leaders at times of austerity, political uncertainty or crisis. They emerge, giving us the impression of hope, with an agenda to charm and manipulate that invariably disappoints their supporters and often does untold damage.

Bad leaders are aggressive, arrogant and deal with challenge, badly. They use self-justification mechanisms, to persuade themselves, what they are doing is; ‘the right thing’.

Why do we put up with bad leaders? Why do we elect, obviously, flawed personalities?

It’s because we are social animals.

Psychologist Robert Riggio explains;

‘… as social animals, we can easily fall into dominance hierarchies where we are prone to follow the leader with the highest push to control.

We then tend to regulate our behaviour in consequence.

This is fundamentally a desire for protection.’

Smart people are more likely fall for a manipulative leaders as they think they are too smart to be manipulated.

Good leaders always hire people better than them. Bad leaders never do that. They can’t afford to be exposed. Average then breeds average and everything ends up mediocre in an environment of blind loyalty.

Glamorous, shouty, bombasts, with appealing slogans and promises of ‘getting things done’, with pledges to protect us…

A phrase comes to mind; ‘We’ll be out by October, do-or-die’.

Michael Maccoby, tells us;

‘… those missing a strong father figure are more likely to succumb to a toxic leader’s glamour of protective strength.

If you long for a mother to support you and heal your scrapes and scratches, you may project a kind, helpful image onto a toxic female boss.’

Who supports bad leaders? We all do. You and me.

To sweep into power, you don’t need battalions. You need command of a narrative and the ways to deliver it.

Social media is making it easier to manipulate messages.

Tell a child, often enough, they are talentless and they’ll grow up believing it.

Bad leaders get jobs in mediocre organisations that stagnate.

That means;

No innovation, because it is threatening to the leader.

No free-speech. Too threatening.

No praise. Might give people ideas they could challenge the leader.

No quarter, failure is ridiculed. It threatens the leader’s reputation for success.

No reward; effort is expected and goes unrecognised.

Faced with that you have two options. Leave, or fight back. So, let’s do that… fight back.

Be kind, be a giver, be relentlessly positive, build your team, deliver stunning results ‘despite everything’.

Say thank-you, send handwritten notes, celebrate success, however small.

Encourage people and big up their strengths.

Support, coach, deliver, finish and get things done.

Outshine the poor leader and they will leave.

You are right to expect good leadership, being treated well and respected. Look for allies and the like minded.

Be a giver, because givers always win.

Contact Roy – please use this e-address – roy.lilley
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Reproduced at by kind permission of Roy Lilley.