Toxic leadership, likely found in all agencies at some point, and the general awareness of toxic leaders with whom individual officers have worked, makes this a real problem for law enforcement agencies. Knowing the root and cause of this type of leadership helps develop understanding on the part of those that can effect a change in leadership within an agency. Comprehending the methods by which such environments develop and their negative impact on the agency as a whole - via individual officers’ experiences, opens the doors on hidden collusion that destroy morale.
Toxic Leadership in Law Enforcement Organizations
In any discussion of leadership, thoughts immediately begin to turn to examples of leadership gone wrong. These may include leaders who bully, threaten, or allow their mood to affect the environment of the agency (Reed, 2004, p. 67). The reason we focus upon these examples is the destructive impact they have upon the agency as a whole, as well as the individual officers unfortunate enough to serve under that type of leader. Leaders such as these foster an environment of backbiting and belittling as a method of control, resulting in an untenable environment for those officers who choose not to engage in such behavior and, as often as not, promotion of those that do. This kind of management gives way to:
1. Turf building
3. Controlling rather than managing (Whicker, 1996, p. 11)
Supervisors such as these promote themselves through visible short-range demonstrations of accomplishments, but are unconcerned with staff development or morale (Reed, 2004, p. 67). Toxic leaders affect the atmosphere of an agency by creating a demotivational environment while attendin...
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... of the problem or coming to the attention of the toxic leader? In truth he does not, keeping documentation of personal experience is about all he can do, it will require many courageous officers doing this same thing, and coming forward as a group, to hope to affect any positive impact upon the situation. Moreover, such actions will, given the distrust engendered in a toxic working environment, likely be perceived by the receiving authority as ‘mutinous,’ or, equally ironic, as placing individual interests ahead of those of the agency.
Reed, C. G. (2004, July - August). Toxic Leadership. Military Review , pp. 67-71.
Whicker, M. L. (1996). Toxic Leaders: When Organizations Go Bad. New York: Doubleday.
Wilson-Starks, K. Y. (2003). Toxic Leadership. Retrieved August 14, 2010, from Transleadership: http://www.transleadership.com/ToxicLeadership.pdf
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