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Strategy for Avoiding Being a Toxic Leader

Strategy for Avoiding Being a Toxic Leader

by Dr. Germaine Washington

Being a negative thinker can be detrimental to your wellbeing and others around you. Negative thinking can be the easiest way bring down an organization.  Expecting everything to be perfect can rob leaders of their happiness and motivation. Negative thinkers can have situations dead and buried because of excessive worrying and not allowing God to take full control.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  If God placed you in a position of leadership, you must trust is will and have faith in your talents.

According to Wren (1995), most leaders don’t make it to roles of influence without a moderate level of confidence and the ability to think rationally but even the most successful, self-assured leaders may occasionally get stuck in patterns of negative thinking. According to Goleman (2008), cognitive psychology theories propose that our emotions and behaviors are influenced by our perception or interpretation of events. For example, if a Senior Vice President obtains an annual report indicating that the organization’s fiscal year budget is 40,000 less than the previous year, then the VP can perceive the report in two ways: either start thinking their career is over and worry about the demise of the organization or begin discussing strategic and innovative ways to increase the budget that does not include layoffs or shutdown.  Our interpretations are guided by beliefs, understandings, and our environment (Wren, 1995).

When leaders start to amplify negative thoughts in their communication, their influential presence can be undermined (Goleman, 2008).  For example, their peers along with other stakeholders could pick up on weaknesses that may cause them to doubt decision-making processes and overall leadership abilities.  Leaders have bad days but when bad days are constant due to terrible thinking patterns, it can place an emotional strain on their followers.  Negative thinking breeds personality defects and gross distortions and it’s impossible to lead others when your thoughts are irrational.  Negative thinking will eventually bring about negative outcomes such as stress, burnout, physical and mental illnesses, or the loss of good employees.

Good leadership skills require emotional balance in tough situations because effective leaders can impress others when they make challenging issues appear easy. Followers normally mimic their leaders; therefore, it is important for influential people to watch their thoughts and actions. Leaders must understand that a flow of optimal performance depends on positive mental outlook, knowing that God is in control as Psalms 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God”.  When individuals move into influential roles, they stand on a bigger stage, and their executive presence becomes extremely important when it comes to driving innovative business results (Satija & Khan, 2013).  The more attuned leaders are to their own thinking patterns, the more they are able make good decisions during critical situation.