Friday, January 7, 2011

How the Mighty Fail: Lessons in Leadership (Part 2)

 “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”
         - General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

This is Part 2 of "How the Mighty Fail", based on "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines"

The Toxic Triangle

The concept of the toxic triangle, described by Art Padilla, Robert Hogan and Robert Kaiser in their 2007 white paper “The Toxic Triangle: Destructive Leaders, Susceptible Followers and Conducive Environments.” (Padilla, A., Hogan, R. & Kaiser, R.B., 2007) helped me begin to make some sense of my experience. They describe the factors that contribute to the initial “success” of a destructive leader.

According to the authors, negative organizational outcomes are the product of:

  1. Dysfunctional leader behaviors.
  2. Susceptible followers.
  3. The contributing environment in which they interact.

The first point of the "triangle" resonated with my experience in management consulting. Like so many others, I first approached the notion of leadership in positive, constructive terms. As I gained experience coaching leaders, I soon became aware of the importance of the hidden, “dark” side of personality that reveals itself in times of frustration and stress.

A leader who is aware of the power of the “dark side” and who has identified the specific traits, based on personality type, which are likely to emerge has a decided advantage. So have companies who assess the “dark side” in their succession planning.Leaders, ignore the "dark side" at their peril.

When the dark side of a leader’s personality is ignored or left unchecked the long-term implications can be frightening. Witness the unprecedented corruption, scandals and bankruptcies in the recent past. Just as functional leaders can create wealth and success for a company, dysfunctional, destructive leaders can be extremely harmful.  Robert Hogan, president of the consulting company Hogan Assessment Systems, is a leader in the study of managerial incompetence and “destructive leadership.”  I have found his insights relevant and helpful and will use them to describe the components of the "toxic triangle."

1.- Dysfunctional leader behaviors

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