Suyin Aerts
June 28, 2024

Toxic Leadership

We see more and more articles in the newspapers about toxic leadership. I have the feeling that the new generations do not agree as we might have agreed too much with dominant and even toxic leaders before.

I was talking about it recently with a friend wondering if toxic leaders are more present in a high demanding culture then let's call it the “regular” business world.

I do believe that some of the environments I have worked in, like the arts, television, sports often thrive on excellence, discipline, and performance but they can also become grounds for toxic leadership if not managed carefully.

I do continue to believe that effective communication is the answer to solve and prevent toxic leadership.

A leader should understand that (s)he does not need to have the answer to everything, being vulnerable and self-knowledge is a valuable skill as a leader.

I also wonder if we should prevent a leader from becoming too passionate about the project he or she is working on. Maybe you need to be able to not lose yourself in the project, keep a certain lucidity. If you know you need to lose that lucidity to be able to create in a creative way, you need to be aware of this and ask someone to stand beside you in the creative process to keep an eye on the well-being of the others that are part of the project.

A leader/creator needs to understand that ‘method acting’ may not work for everyone, we might forget that a personal mixture of ‘styles’ we gained might have some risks of becoming toxic for one and feel ok for others. It is a never ending balance you need to find…and reaching out for help and getting coaching seems a necessity once you reach a certain level.

How far should you go as a creator, director, choreographer, to make the person feel the same pain you felt to be able to ‘play’ or ‘dance’ it, is what I have wondered when I was working as a dancer and actor before.

I believe leaders should foster an atmosphere where team members feel safe to express their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. If we are able to encourage this open dialogue this will help to identify issues early on. A good leader should be approachable and willing to listen and ask the right questions to create a culture of mutual respect and understanding.

The pursuit of excellence should never come at the expense of well-being, but team members should realize it is always their choice to work in a demanding environment and that some environments might be better for them.

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