What do we owe a toxic leader?

The question I’d ask today is, “When in a followership role, what do we as followers owe a toxic leader?”

Let’s first discuss the definition of leadership. My definition of leadership is the thoughtful and methodical application of a continually studied framework that becomes a mindset which¬†promotes positive culture and ethics.¬†

I subscribe to a school of thought that believes leadership is a positive trait and should be defined as such. Of course, there exist “leaders” who embrace negative traits to achieve their goals. We tend to refer to these folks as ‘bad’ or ‘toxic’ leaders. I don’t believe they should be honored with the title of “leader” at all. One who is embued with the authority to direct others, but whom lacks the traits to be a good leader (or sees no need to implement the same) is, at best, a manager with the legal authority to direct action by subordinates. All that said, I will keep with the naming convention for the purpose of answering the asked question, “What do we as followers owe a toxic leader?”

What is a toxic leader? I suspect we can all name the traits that make an individual leader toxic. Such people are often arbitrary, negative, insulting, intimidating (or use intimidation), narcissistic and tend to rely on authority in lieu of actual leadership to achieve a goal, which is likely personally driven vs in service to an ideal.

What do we owe such ‘leaders’?


Such individuals are in violation of the social contract, the glue that holds us together in a society.

We do not owe such toxic individuals allegiance or deference.

I would go so far as to suggest we owe one another a duty to speak out against such individuals, as we are able.

What say you?