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Alisa Miniotaitė: Can the leader show weakness?
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Alisa Miniotaitė: How to Grow a Leader?

Alisa Miniotaitė: The Toxic Colors of Leadership

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“Toxic” means poisonous. The effects of the poison are broad: from physical and mental health to the result of the department, team, organizational culture – relationships, the ability to work together. It is possible to poison an only person, and it is possible to release poison into society – it will penetrate even the most remote corners of it. Such poison includes mistrust and fear.

Leader toxicity (or ethics) can manifest itself in each detail of leadership: the leader’s thoughts, words and behavior (shown by a personal example), relationships with followers, the team’s path to the goal (the way the goal is achieved), the goal itself, and the impact of that goal.

Toxic, poisonous leader. Today, when the supply of job vacancies is high, people quickly vote with their feet – such leaders are being abandoned. The problem arises when followers have little choice (or think they do not have it), when being next to such leaders is costly (for example, in highly profitable, high-paying companies, competition is higher; the goal begins to justify means).

The toxic behavior of a manager is gossiping about employees, humiliating employees, giving negative feedback to everyone. Research of why employees exalt such management behaviors has found that such behaviors usually come with rewards (oppression is being replaced with praise, bonuses and non-monetary pleasures) that seem to redeem the damage, but the employee’s well-being continues to deteriorate. It should be noted that a toxic manager engages in such a relationship not with every employee. Often the discussed aggressor-victim relationship ties in with employees who are prone to the role of victim. This is not an excuse for the manager, but the employee also plays a significant role in such a relationship. Creating a relationship that you (subconsciously) feel worthy of.

In leadership, questions of means and purpose are often put on the scale. A teacher who was fierce and mortifying but taught well? A manager who demands with a fist? Nowadays it seems we have all agreed: the aim does not justify the measures.

And what about like-minded people who support each other, kindly, and enjoy pursuing their toxic goals? Goals that do not bring well-being into the organization and society in the long run? The goals and interests of one particular group?

Toxic goals are to steal at the expense of others, to silence those who speak differently, to destroy the foundation of a sustainable society. Suppression of thought threatens freedom and the state, fear breeds violence and hatred, threatens stability — many historical examples show the damage done by infuriating society to the point that any word you say means joining one or another opposing group. No matter what you say, you will be immediately assigned, for example, to either the left or the right side.

Leadership is proven by history. What benefits have you created? How many leaders have you raised by leading the team forward? Has the company flourished during the time of your leadership? Have your decisions weakened or strengthened the state? What is the long-term impact of your decisions on others? Maybe you were an entrepreneur who thoroughly calculated everything and pursued his goals? Or maybe a narcissist roaring from the top and looking down at the worker, in other words, a toxic leader?


Dr. Alisa Miniotaitė is a management and leadership expert, founder of UAB ALISA MANAGEMENT LABORATORY, ISM University of Management and Economics, Leadership Program Manager

Commentary is published in the news radio show “Leader’s Dilemma” and news page


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