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Are you leading your company to success or failure? What kind of leader are you?

10_worst_leadersOur radio series theme for October is workplace incivility and toxic work environments. I begin brainstorming for each week’s blog post with a question surrounding the theme, so I asked myself, why do toxic work environments occur? My immediate response to the question was: poor leadership.

Leading others is not a simple task, but if done well, leaders can help companies and employees thrive. However, poor leadership can lead to hostility, poor performance, poor job satisfaction, high turnover rates, and failing businesses. According to Wall Street Journal article adapted from “The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management” by Alan Murray, “Leadership is less about your needs, and more about the needs of the people and the organization you are leading.” The article outlines the six leadership styles that David Goleman author of the book “The Primal Leadership” describes. The six leadership styles are visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding. The article stresses that great leaders encompass all six leadership styles and chooses which style to use based on the situation and people with whom they are working. The ability to execute each leadership style depending on the needs of the situation reminds me how an experienced conflict intervener knows which conflict style to use to achieve the best results.

I previously worked in a toxic work environment where upper-management used the pacesetting and commanding leadership styles. The WSJ article explains pacesetting style as, “the leader sets high standards for performance.” The pace of which the leaders set is high achieving and fast pace. The company I worked for gave very large workloads to their employees with the expectation that they would get as much as humanly possible. Upper management was able to see how much work you completed at the end of each day and if you were not completing enough of your work quickly, your immediate supervisor spoke with you. The commanding leadership style, the WSJ article describes as, “probably the most often used, but the least often effective. Because it rarely involves praise and frequently employs criticism, it undercuts morale and job satisfaction.” The company I worked for rarely gave praise for the work done, it never seemed like enough to upper management and they always wanted more. The environment was toxic when I began working there, and it continued until I left. Employees hated coming to the office, were increasingly stressed, and the turnover rate was high. Upper management used fear and increased workloads to motivate its employees, a style of leadership that was popular in our parents and grandparent’s day.

Leaders have a tough role, they must engage their employees to do their work well, but also be tough when a situation requires it. I think the leaders of my former organization cared most about money, power, and ego. They worried about their needs before the needs of their employees or the organization they were running, which cultivated a toxic work environment. Leadership puts one in a very powerful position, and if one is not careful, the power trip can go to their head.

My husband works for a large tech company, whose leaders use more of the other four styles: visionary, coaching, affiliative, and democratic. I asked him if he thought he worked in a toxic work environment? Without hesitation, he said “no.” I then asked what he liked about his boss’s leadership style? My husband responded:

He allows you space to be innovated and create without being over-bearing. He guides you when needed and challenges you to do your best work. He encourages teamwork and asks everyone’s input on starting and completing tasks and goals.”

Many companies today are changing over to the style my husband’s organization uses, and they are finding success. The leadership role is difficult, but being a good leader will inevitably lead to a company’s success.

What kind of leader are you? Find out by taking the quiz from Inc.com authored by Adam Bluestein former editor of Real Simple’s.

Check out our expert guests that will be on our upcoming October programs here:


Abigail R.C McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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