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

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

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by Jean Lipman-Blumen
     
 

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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

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Easily one of the best leadership books of the 1990s was Ron Heifetz's Leadership Without Easy Answers. By explaining why followership is equally demanding, The Allure of Toxic Leaders is a perfect complement."—Financial Times

"This book certainly makes interesting election-year reading."—Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A remarkably comprehensive yet penetrating analysis that sees bad leadership both as morally wrong and psychologically dysfunctional, with practical strategies for reform. A sophisticated study that sees the problem as a failure of followership as well as leadership."—James MacGregor Burns

"It's a long, detailed, thoughtful essay, concentrating on followers and the predicaments they find themselves in with toxic leaders, and the various strategies they employ to extricate themselves. It's rewarding, but not easy, reading."—Globe & Mail

"I thought it was an absolutely brilliant book... I've read few books in my life that made me see things from a wholly new perspective. This was one of those very few."—Robert J. Sternberg, Yale University

"A solid look at a dismaying business trend.... Examines the seemingly inexplicable reasons why many employees are loyal to CEOs and politicians who abuse power, cook finances and otherwise virtually destroy their companies.... Offers numerous examples in both politics and business of toxic leaders who have survived crises and received accolades despite their obvious flaws.... The book's strength is the detailed psychological approach to examining the phenomenon of loyalty to toxic leaders."—Publishers Weekly

"Whose fault is it that we seem to have so many bad (toxic) leaders today? Jean Lipman-Blumen asserts that everyone's to blame, especially us followers. Beautifully reasoned and intricately argued, she convincingly explains how followers help spawn toxic leaders. Fortunately, she also tells us how to get out of the trap we're in and proposes a highly innovative model of leadership that promises a healthier future."—Jerry I. Porras, Stanford Business School

"In this powerful and eye-opening book, Lipman-Blumen illuminates the darkness of the rarely understood—except to its victims—dangers of evil leadership. She proffers wise counsel and early warnings on how to detect and defend against it. I enthusiastically recommend it to all leaders—and even more, to their vulnerable followers."—Warren Bennis, University of Southern California, author of On Becoming a Leader

"Provides remarkable insights into why so many destructive leaders gain and keep power. By explaining the role of followers, Lipman-Blumen makes a profound statement about the nature of leadership itself."—Max De Pree, former CEO of Herman Miller, Inc.

"In our search for leaders, our appraisal of leaders, Jean Lipman-Blumen provides us with a powerful tool to identify, understand and analyze the toxic leader as she gives us fresh observations on our own journey to leadership." —Frances Hesselbein, Chairman, Leader to Leader Institute

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199840564
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
10/16/2006
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
915,825
File size:
2 MB

Related Subjects

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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The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians--and How We Can Survive Them 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Henry_Berry More than 1 year ago
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.
earthwindfireKE More than 1 year ago
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.