“They see people as chess pawns and move them around when others begin to see through their actions.
Unethical and Toxic Leaders
Can an organization with unethical and toxic leaders be successful? Obviously, yes.
These leaders often get away with breaking laws and people until they are forced to stop. Then, these leaders find a place somewhere else while the dust settles and everyone has to recover from the trauma.
Why do They Last?
These leaders are the most skilled at manipulation and playing games, and you fall right into it (sorry). They are gamblers who bet on a few human characteristics for their own success.
- People will gossip and complain, but rarely take any action against toxic leaders for fear of retaliation.
- They see people as chess pawns and move them around when others begin to see through their actions.
- They understand that the real value of the system you are in is money and profit above all else. If their tactics make a profit, why would they leave? They bet on the greed of boards, other leaders, and shareholders.
- They show no fear in the face of “political” danger and that intimidates others.
How to Combat This Pattern
Not to sound pessimistic, but if these people are entrenched in an organizational system, there’s not a lot anyone can do to oust them. Only other, ethical leaders can begin the process of pushing these people out. Leaders with the vision and values that go beyond the sole focus of money and profit.
It’s not good or bad; it just is.
Obviously, most businesses are started to make money in a capitalistic system. Organizations that set the vision to go beyond profits and make the world a better place can fight these toxic patterns of leadership.
In one example, there was a leader who truly bought into the style of servant leadership. His employees told us that he had them revisit the vision and values at every meeting. Then people were encouraged to state how someone showed up in those values throughout the week.
This CEO donated immensely during the hurricane in Puerto Rico, and showed all his employees that he cared about their well-being with his actions. The people we interviewed said they actually loved this CEO.
Overall, leadership like the example above, of the organization can be the largest force to push out toxic leaders (toxic leaders rarely change). But anyone can survive or influence within their own sphere’s while this shift happens.
“It’s not impossible to change cultures, but those toxic leaders will hold on to their positions with every fiber of their being, using all the gaslighting, bait-and-switch, power moves THEY have been studying.
Outlast or Leave
If your organization is promoting and encouraging toxic or abusive leaders, waiting until you rise to the top and change things will be impossible. This video explains why.
You can try, though. One of my favorite books about surviving in various organizations and actually creating changes is Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. They have some great stories about tactics people have used to shift people within organizations.
It’s not impossible to change cultures, but those toxic leaders will hold on to their positions with every fiber of their being, using all the gaslighting, bait-and-switch, power moves THEY have been studying.
The other option is to leave. Other organizational systems will align with your values. But do you know those values? That’s the question you have to ask. Here’s a resource for that.