Does your organization have a toxic leader?

Does your organization have a toxic leader? | Insurance Business

Does your organization have a toxic leader?

According to Theo Veldsman, Professor and Head of the Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg, there is a growing incidence of toxic leadership in organizations across the world.

What’s more, his research shows that about three out of every ten leaders are toxic.

In an article published in Eyewitness News, Veldsman explained how this cancer of toxicity threatens not just the well-being of individuals and organizations, but can also affect the performance of a society and country.

“That's why there is a pressing need for leaders to understand the nature, dynamics and evolution of toxic leadership and organizations,” he said.

He pointed out that five typical toxic leaders exist:

  • The Cold Fish: the ends justifies the means. So any decision and action is justifiable in terms of the results desired.
  • The Snake: the world serves me in the endeavour to satisfy my personal needs like greed, status and power.
  • Glory Seeker: personal glory and public visibility at any cost, regardless of whether I have made any real and meaningful contribution.
  • Puppet Master: absolute, centralized control over everything and anyone, under all circumstances.
  • Monarch: ruling the organization as if it is my kingdom. All of its assets are available for my personal use.

“The more prolific these toxic leaders are in an organization, the more toxic the organization,” he explained.

Veldsman added that organizations can also be toxic in their own right through the organizational culture they have.

“Organizational culture refers to shared ways of seeing, interpreting and acting upon the world that becomes ingrained in an organization's DNA. It's the glue holding it together and provides an organization with a way of looking at and relating to the world,” he said.

When toxic patterns become ingrained into the DNA of an organization the following patterns emerge:

  • Paranoid: the defensive, afraid, suspicious, trusting no-one or nobody organization.
  • Compulsive: the over-planned and over-programmed organization.
  • Hyperactive: the impulsive, unfocused organization, acting like an adolescent.
  • Deflated: the energy-less, depressed and impotent organization.
  • Delusional: the reality estranged, make-believe organization, living in a world of its own.
  • Conscienceless: the unethical, amoral organization.


Veldsman concluded by saying that that this is “in no uncertain terms” endangering the wellbeing of organizational members.

“It compromises future sustainable organizational, community and societal performance and success, as well as the very continued existence of them,” he said. 


The preceding article was originally published on our sister site Learning & Development.