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  • Writer's pictureRukiya Robinson

The Fruit of Leadership Dysfunction

Horrible bosses was an entertaining and comical movie about employees at different companies with shared experiences of their horrible bosses. While the experiences created by these horrible bosses in the movie were extreme and fictitious, there’s no denying that employees have experienced a horrible boss a time or two in their professional career. Having a horrible boss is a real thing, so real there’s a movie about it, many historical accounts of failed companies because of it, research to back it, trainings to minimize it, and plenty of employees that can attest to it. 

Here we are talking about the fruit of dysfunctional leadership not the leader as a person. One dictionary version of dysfunction means “unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group”. 

Discussing the impact of leadership dysfunction is a topic that many organizations and leadership teams would rather avoid altogether. It can be uncomfortable to confront a leader that demonstrates behaviors that contribute to undesirable outcomes, but the fruit of leadership dysfunction is undeniable. Often, addressing leadership dysfunction gets put off until it becomes a necessity to confront. It seems easier to address the symptoms of these behaviors than to overtly address the leader performing poorly because of these behaviors. Likewise, when there’s one leader of a small organization and there’s no accountability to leadership dysfunction - just the fruit of leadership dysfunction serves as evidence.

If you lead people in any capacity, it’s imperative that you regularly look in the mirror for a self-check. Ask yourself “How am I really leading my team?”, “How does my team feel about my leadership?”. For those that don’t like to look in the mirror, don’t fret there’s evidence that will show you the type of leader that you are.  

Leaders should never assume they are great leaders just because of a title or business ownership. It takes time to produce fruit.  

How do you recognize the fruit of dysfunctional leadership? Dysfunctional leadership starts to bud over time. The fruit of dysfunctional leadership is an accumulation of unhealthy nutrients sown into the organization. 

Below you will find some examples of the fruit produced from dysfunctional leadership. It’s common for these to happen occasionally, but when an organization finds multiple happening simultaneously or more frequently, then you may want to take a deeper look into what’s contributing to these outcomes. 

Unmotivated Employees

Unmotivated employees can stem from a myriad of factors. Organizations will always have a few outliers as long as they are contained and don’t bleed onto others. Aside from the outliers, other variables to consider that contribute to unmotivated teams are no vision, clear direction, or goals for the organization. Simply put, if there’s nothing to look forward to, they will look elsewhere.  “Why are we here?” must be a question asked frequently. Building momentum, positive energy, and empowerment of employees start with leadership. 

Disengaged Employees

These are the employees that have mentally and emotionally “checked out”. Employees who have had their concerns disregarded, ignored, and overlooked time and time again will begin to feel unheard. Employees that feel unsupported and belittled will disengage. Employees are people. People are emotional beings and want to feel heard, supported, know that the leader is present, and understands them.  

High Employee Turn-over

Employees come and employees go. That’s common in any organization. But when you find many employees ready to jump ship at the same time, it’s time to pay attention - see the other fruit. 

Lack of Cohesiveness 

We have all heard the saying “there’s no I in team” but what is keeping the team together? When there’s no vision, mission, or purpose, boundaries aren’t set, or no shared values system, then the glue that keeps high-performing teams together doesn’t exist. This breeds individual agendas throughout the team.  

Disconnected Relationships

A leader’s inability to emotionally connect with their teams and clients will project a lack of empathy and understanding. Vulnerability is needed to lead effectively.  Leaders are human and must connect with their team as such. It’s ok to be human and still be an effective leader. 

Final Thoughts

Leaders impact the well-being of an organization. Great leaders are accountable. The behaviors of an organization’s employees are influenced by the behaviors of their leaders. Effective, influential, and resonate leaders are intentional about the outcomes they create. A leader’s lack of self-awareness will hinder the ability to recognize the fruit of leadership dysfunction. 

Organizations must proactively invest in their leaders and team development before costly events happen - this is how to mitigate risk. If having a successful and thriving company is important to your organization, then leadership development should be as equally important.  As the adage says “A team is only as strong as it’s leadership”.  

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Mike Berk
Mike Berk
May 20, 2021

Rukiya, have you found a good way for a leader to elicit feedback from their teams? I have been wondering about this. Thinking of creating a google survey or something for the team I'm leading. We have 360 mechanisms, but I want specific feedback from the these people about how they are experiencing my leadership. What do you suggest?

Rukiya Robinson
Rukiya Robinson
May 27, 2021
Replying to

Hi Mike - thank you for your comment! My thoughts are if your organization already has formal methods in place that you use, as an additional measure, implement some non-formal methods. Have conversations. Ask questions. “What do you think about …?” “What is your experience with …?”, “How am I doing with …?”.

These conversations are another great way to connect, learn, cultivate trust and build relationships. You also show that you care and are interested in hearing from others. I hope that helps a bit! Keep me posted on how things work out for you!

Best regards ~ Rukiya

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