9 Messages that Create a Toxic Leadership Culture

February 25, 2012 — Leave A Comment

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” ~ Jane Howard

Often it’s not the external or obvious challenges that kill a team. It’s the subtle stuff. The underlying fears. The suspicions or frustrations that nobody talks about openly. The unspoken rules of engagement. In other words, the team’s culture. Here are 9 subtle messages that sometimes infect a leadership team. Nothing turns a powerful team toxic and ineffective more quickly than undermining messages like these:

  • It’s not okay to make mistakes.
  • It’s not okay to take care of yourself first.
  • It’s not okay to disagree when everyone else agrees.
  • It’s not okay to be too functional or too happy.
  • It’s not okay to be at ease or unhurried.
  • It’s not okay to trust yourself.
  • It’s not okay to depend on anyone or anything.
  • It’s not okay to be vulnerable or to appear weak.
  • It’s not okay to say no, or to set a boundary with others.

Do any of these messages show up on your team? If so, which ones? How strongly do they influence the culture of your organization?

What if you started living out the opposite message on your team (listed below)? What strength would become available to you then? What gift would it bring to your team?

  • It’s okay to make mistakes.
  • It’s okay to take care of yourself first.
  • It’s okay to disagree when everyone else agrees.
  • It’s okay to be whole and happy.
  • It’s okay to be at ease and unhurried.
  • It’s okay to trust yourself.
  • It’s okay to really trust and depend on others.
  • It’s okay to be vulnerable and to appear weak.
  • It’s okay to say no, and to set a boundary with others.

What other toxic “messages” would you add to the list? Feel free to add them in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Michael Warden

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