1 Leader Toxicity

Topics: Leadership, Management, Employment Pages: 18 (8174 words) Published: January 1, 2015
Leadership
http://lea.sagepub.com/

Leader toxicity: An empirical investigation of toxic behavior and rhetoric Kathie L. Pelletier
Leadership 2010 6: 373
DOI: 10.1177/1742715010379308
The online version of this article can be found at:
http://lea.sagepub.com/content/6/4/373

Published by:
http://www.sagepublications.com

Additional services and information for Leadership can be found at: Email Alerts: http://lea.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts
Subscriptions: http://lea.sagepub.com/subscriptions
Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav
Permissions: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
Citations: http://lea.sagepub.com/content/6/4/373.refs.html

>> Version of Record - Jan 20, 2011
What is This?

Downloaded from lea.sagepub.com at Dublin City University on August 15, 2012

Article

Leader toxicity: An empirical
investigation of toxic behavior
and rhetoric

Leadership
6(4) 373–389
! The Author(s) 2010
Reprints and permissions:
sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/1742715010379308
lea.sagepub.com

Kathie L. Pelletier
California State University, San Bernardino, USA

Abstract
This paper provides empirical support for the behavioral and rhetorical constructs associated with toxic leadership in organizational contexts. Two exploratory studies were conducted that examined behavior and rhetoric of leaders through the lenses of abusive, bullying, destructive, toxic, and tyrannical leadership theories. In a qualitative study, participants expressed their direct experiences with leader toxicity. Eight behavioral dimensions emerged. Integrating those findings, a 51-item leader behavior assessment was developed to assess agreement of the severity of harmfulness of these dimensions. Based on the results of these studies, a typology of toxic leader behaviors and rhetoric was developed. Organizational implications are discussed. Keywords

abusive supervision, destructive behavior, leader toxicity, toxic leadership

Introduction and review of the literature
Positive stories of organizational leaders might highlight leaders who motivate employees to achieve their goals and inspire them to do more than they thought was possible. The negative accounts include stories of leaders who ridicule their employees in public, force employees to endure physical hardships, and promote divisiveness between work groups or individuals. These stories depict behaviors of leaders who inflict serious physical and/or psychological harm on their followers. It is quite possible that others working for these leaders view these same authority figures with respect and admiration. To illustrate this point, one prominent college men’s basketball coach earned a reputation for his unorthodox behaviors. During games, when players did not play to their fullest potential, the coach would become physically and mentally abusive. Some players were angered, others felt fear, yet others stated that he was the best coach they had ever had.

Corresponding author:
Kathie L. Pelletier, California State University, USA
Email: kpelleti@csusb.edu

Downloaded from lea.sagepub.com at Dublin City University on August 15, 2012

Leadership 6(4)

374

These differences in perceptions and attributions suggest we still have much to learn about how people view leadership, since one person’s toxic leader may be another person’s hero (Lipman-Blumen, 2005). Interestingly, research on leadership has not been balanced with respect to these polar views; the majority of studies have focused on the effective aspects of leadership more so than the destructive ones. Although an understanding of effective leadership is vital for developing managers and supervisors, it is equally important to identify the behaviors and rhetoric of leaders who knowingly or unintentionally inflict enduring harm on their constituents.

The research questions this study seeks to answer are, ‘What are the behaviors and rhetoric of leaders that followers...

Citations: http://lea.sagepub.com/content/6/4/373.refs.html
>> Version of Record - Jan 20, 2011
What is This?
Downloaded from lea.sagepub.com at Dublin City University on August 15, 2012
Email: kpelleti@csusb.edu
Downloaded from lea.sagepub.com at Dublin City University on August 15, 2012
(Lipman-Blumen, 2005). Interestingly, research on leadership has not been balanced with
respect to these polar views; the majority of studies have focused on the effective aspects of
the basketball coach example, ‘Do followers agree as to what constitutes harmful leader
behavior and rhetoric?’ According to social construction theory (Hunt, 1984), followers’
If followers cannot agree as to what constitutes destructive behavior or rhetoric, they
might be unable or unwilling to challenge or confront the leader (Kets de Vries, 1989)
Theories and characteristics of harmful leadership
Bass (1985) pointed out that there are as many definitions of leadership as there are people
within the domains of abusive (Tepper, 2000; Tepper et al., 2007), tyrannical (Ashforth,
1994), destructive (Einarsen et al., 2007), bullying (Namie and Namie, 2000), unethical or
bad (Kellerman, 2004), and toxic (Lipman-Blumen, 2005; Pelletier, 2009; Reed, 2004). There
are behavioral overlaps within these theories, but there are also behaviors that are unique to
Abusive and tyrannical leadership. Abusive leadership has been defined by Tepper (2000:
178) as ‘subordinates’ subjective assessments of the extent to which supervisors engage in the
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Assignment 1 Becoming an effective Leader Essay
  • A leader Essay
  • Essay on A leader
  • Leaders Essay
  • leader Essay
  • Essay about leader
  • Essay on Effective Athletic And Business Leaders 1
  • Essay about Article 1 sports leader coursework

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free