The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians--and How We Can Survive Them

Overview

Toxic leaders, both political, like Slobodan Milosevic, and corporate, like Enron's Ken Lay, have always been with us, and many books have been written to explain what makes them tick. Here leadership scholar Jean Lipman-Blumen explains what makes the followers tick, exploring why people will tolerate—and remain loyal to—leaders who are destructive to their organizations, their employees, or their nations.
Why do we knowingly follow, seldom unseat, frequently prefer, and ...

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The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians--and How We Can Survive Them

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Overview

Toxic leaders, both political, like Slobodan Milosevic, and corporate, like Enron's Ken Lay, have always been with us, and many books have been written to explain what makes them tick. Here leadership scholar Jean Lipman-Blumen explains what makes the followers tick, exploring why people will tolerate—and remain loyal to—leaders who are destructive to their organizations, their employees, or their nations.
Why do we knowingly follow, seldom unseat, frequently prefer, and sometimes even create toxic leaders? Lipman-Blumen argues that these leaders appeal to our deepest needs, playing on our anxieties and fears, on our yearnings for security, high self-esteem, and significance, and on our desire for noble enterprises and immortality. She also explores how followers inadvertently keep themselves in line by a set of insidious control myths that they internalize. For example, the belief that the leader must necessarily be in a position to "know more" than the followers often stills their objections. In addition, outside forces—such as economic depressions, political upheavals, or a crisis in a company—can increase our anxiety and our longing for charismatic leaders. Lipman-Blumen shows how followers can learn critical lessons for the future and survive in the meantime. She discusses how to confront, reform, undermine, blow the whistle on, or oust a toxic leader. And she suggests how we can diminish our need for strong leaders, identify "reluctant leaders" among competent followers, and even nurture the leader within ourselves.
Toxic leaders charm, manipulate, mistreat, weaken, and ultimately devastate their followers. The Allure of Toxic Leaders tells us how to recognize these leaders before it's too late.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195312003
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/30/2006
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 603,945
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean Lipman-Blumen is Professor of Public Policy and of Organizational Behavior at Claremont Graduate University, California and a co-founding director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Leadership. Her books include the award-winning Hot Groups: Seeding Them, Feeding Them, and Using Them to Ignite Your Organization and Connective Leadership: Managing in a Changing World, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 22, 2009

    why and how harmful leaders come to and stay in power

    The central question for Lipman-Blumen, professor of Public Policy and of Organizational Behavior at California Claremont Graduate U., and one of the founders of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Leadership, is 'What are the forces that propel followers, again and again, to accept, often favor, and sometime create toxic leaders?' The question has many sides involving sociological, psychological, historical, political and also in varying measures pathological and irrational matters. The author delves into these varied areas with familiarity, depth, analytic abilities, and nimbleness. There is no simple answer to the question. Followers' self-esteem, the delusions of crowds, deceptiveness of a leader, historical circumstances, and the nature of and need for society play into the acceptance, toleration, and support of toxic leaders. There is also often an ambiguity to a leader making it difficult to see if he or she is toxic and some leaders may become toxic over a period of time. Not all toxic leaders are as evident in their time or even historical hindsight as Hitler or Stalin and the other ogres of history. Lipman-Blumen's purview of toxic leaders extends to Jeffrey Skilling of Enron notoriety and other top corporate executives of recent years whose harmful wrongdoings have been uncovered. While she regularly refers to certifiably toxic or questionable leaders in varied fields as examples, Lipman-Blumen engages only minimally in psychoanalysis of them. Her concentration is on the broader circumstances and patterns of how toxic leaders come to power in the first place and how they are able to stay in power even when their harmful behavior and policies become known. The author also pays much attention to the role of much of respective populations and key supporters in this. But the author also provides answers on how to counter toxic leaders in this timely, needed work.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2013

    Very timely book for the politics of our time

    I first learned about this book in The Lucifer Effect by Phillip Zimbardo. We see the problem. Our political and business leaders are sociopaths and incapable of showing empathy. Jean Lipman-Blumen puts a slightly different spin on why we choose these people as leaders.

    If you are try to make sense of why we pick the leaders we do and want a solution then this book is a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2005

    Highly Recommended!

    This intriguing, intellectual study of disastrous leadership offers a courageous interpretation of corporate scandal and political folly. Amoral leaders are not entirely to blame, Jean Lipman-Blumen argues. Rather, followers enable misguided leaders to rise to power and stay there. Her analysis applies psychological principles to Adolf Hitler¿s Germany and Jeff Skilling¿s Enron (not exactly parallel, but you get the idea) and concludes that toxic leaders¿ followers are willing victims who allowed misguided bosses to appeal to their basest instincts. While Lipman-Blumen¿s assertions are startling, she makes a compelling case written in dense but readable prose with intriguing detail. We suggest this book to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the relationship between leaders and their followers, particularly given the swath cut by today¿s toxic leaders.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2004

    Sometimes It's More Than Smoke and Mirrors

    I have been studying leadership for over a dozen years and this is by far and away the best book on the subject. It goes deeply beneath the hype and glorification and shows how we followers can be suckered by sociopaths and even be complicit in pushing benign con artists into a more toxic behavior level. Our culture is built with great tolerance of greed and manipulation at the top and we have to laboriously train ourselves to be on the lookout for toxic tendencies in our leaders by keeping an ironic and skeptical corner of our eye ever open. Lipman-Blumen¿s book explains this in sparkling language and good grace.

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