Books - The Allure of Toxic Leaders
Why do we knowingly follow, seldom unseat, frequently prefer, and sometimes even create toxic leaders?
A brilliant look at why we follow leaders from "charming rascals" to cynical despots and how to avoid their toxic embrace
Toxic leaders -- such as Jeffrey Skilling at Enron, Al Dunlap ("Chainsaw Al") at Sunbeam, or Saddam Hussein of Iraq -- have always been with us, and many books explain what makes them tick. But in The Allure of Toxic Leaders, Jean Lipman-Blumen explains what makes the followers tick, exploring why we tolerate-and remain steadfastly loyal to--leaders who are destructive to their organizations, their employees, their nations, and their constituents.
Why do we knowingly follow, seldom unseat, frequently prefer, and sometimes even create toxic leaders? Lipman-Blumen argues that 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. The author explores how psychological needs-such as the desire to be at the heart of the action, to be an insider--can often make us susceptible to toxic leaders. She describes how followers inadvertently keep themselves in line by a set of insidious control myths that they internalize. In addition, outside forces-such as economic depressions, political upheavals, or a crisis in the company-can increase our anxiety and our longing for charismatic leaders. Equally important, Lipman-Blumen shows how followers, mired in the swamp of toxic leadership, can learn critical lessons for the future and survive in the meantime. She discusses how to confront, reform, undermine, blow the whistle on, or oust a toxic leader. And she suggests how we can diminish our need for strong leaders, identify "reluctant leaders" among competent followers, and even nurture the leader within ourselves.
Toxic leaders first charm, but then manipulate, mistreat, weaken, and ultimately devastate their followers. The Allure of Toxic Leaders tells us how to recognize these leaders and identify the germ of toxicity within their "noble" visions before it's too late.
"Easily one of the best leadership books of the 1990s was Ron Heifetz's Leadership Without Easy Answers (1994). By explaining why followership is equally demanding, The Allure of toxic Leaders is a perfect complement."
- The Financial Times
"A remarkably comprehensive yet penetrating analysis that sees bad leadership both as morally wrong and psychologically dysfunctional, with practical strategies for reform. A sophisticated study that sees the problem as a failure of followership as well as leadership."
- James MacGregor Burns
"Whose fault is it that we seem to have so many bad (toxic) leaders today? Jean Lipman-Blumen asserts that everyone's to blame, especially us followers. Beautifully reasoned and intricately argued, she convincingly explains how followers help spawn toxic leaders. Fortunately, she also tells us how to get out of the trap we're in and proposes a highly innovative model of leadership that promises a healthier future."
- Jerry I. Porras, Lane Professor of Organizational Behavior and Change, Emeritus, Stanford Business School
"In this powerful and eye-opening book, Lipman-Blumen illuminates the darkness of the rarely understood - except to its victims - dangers of evil leadership. She proffers wise counsel and early warnings on how to detect and defend against it. I enthusiastically recommend it to all leaders - and even more, to their vulnerable followers."
- Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business, University of Southern California, and author of On Becoming a Leader
"The Allure of Toxic Leaders provides remarkable insights into why so many destructive leaders gain and keep power. By explaining the role of followers, Jean Lipman-Blumen makes a profound statement about the nature of leadership itself."
- Max De Pree, former CEO of Herman Miller, Inc.
"In our search for leaders, our appraisal of leaders, Jean Lipman-Blumen provides us with a powerful tool to identify, understand and analyze the toxic leader as she gives us fresh observations on our own journey to leadership."
- Frances Hesselbein, Chairman, Leader to Leader Institute; founding President of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management