The Effects of Toxic Leadership on Unit Essay

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An effective military unit is built on the firm foundation of quality leadership; leadership drives performance outcomes and creates the organizational climate and culture necessary for success. While multiple leadership styles can prove effective under various circumstances, toxic leadership almost always has an adverse impact on morale within the unit (Sadulski, 2018). Toxic leadership undermines trust, creates a climate of fear, and can even “violate the legitimate interests of the organization,” (Aubrey, 2012, p. 4). In fact, the effects of toxic leadership can reverberate far beyond the immediate interactions within the unit, penetrating “deep into families and family readiness,” (Jowers, 2015, p. 1). Defined as a self-seeking, “abrasive,” and “narcissistic” set of behaviors, toxic leadership undermines the fundamental principles of the military.

One of the effects of toxic leadership is the creation and normalization of a toxic climate within the entire unit. The main features of a toxic environment within the unit include a lack of intrinsic motivation among individuals, corresponding to a disregard for teamwork (Sadulski, 2018). A toxic leader sets a self-centered example, acting from personal ambition and egoism, rather than modeling collaborative behaviors and team-based methods of problem solving. Self-seeking behaviors are contrary to the principles and practices of teambuilding and contradictory to what unit members have been traditionally taught to view as appropriate comportment.

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As a result of modeling their own behavior after that of their leaders, unit members also develop a self-centered approach to their work, detracting from the group cohesion that is necessary under many military circumstances.

Furthermore, a toxic climate within a unit will also lead to the loss of the top performing service members (Sadulski, 2018). Because of the ways toxic leadership can seriously undermine the goals of military performance, senior officers should do as much as possible to identify and retrain leaders currently exhibiting toxic leadership traits. Toxic leadership a also has a strong bearing on individual physical and psychological health, which also impacts overall unit performance.

One of the key features of toxic leadership is the fundamental attribution error: the toxic leader takes personal credit for the good work performed by the team, while blaming subordinates when something goes wrong. As a result, members of the unit can become persistently angry and frustrated, with adverse health outcomes (Jowers, 2015). Increased stress levels are common among units with toxic leaders because subordinates are afraid to make mistakes for….....

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Aubrey, D.W. (2012). The effect of toxic leadership. Strategy Research Project, United States Army War College.

Jowers, K. (2015). Effects of toxic leadership could reach deep into families, research finds. Military Times, 12 Nov, 2015.

Sadulski, J. (2018). Toxic leadership has a negative effect on the military workplace. In Military.

Wright, K.D. (2015). Great results through bad leaders. Military Review, May-June 2015,

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