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10 Jan '14

Four characteristics of dysfunctional leaders who create chaos in their organizations

Posted by T.J. Addington in dysfunctional leaders, leaders, unhealthy leaders
Ministry leaders often bring significant chaos to an organization when their own EQ (Emotional Intelligence) becomes a barrier to their leadership. It may not manifest itself in the beginning but over time these dysfunctions become issues for their staff, the direction of the organization and the ability of the organization to move to a new level

Defensiveness
Defensive leaders face a dilemma. It is not easy for their staff to address issues that need to be addressed, especially if the leader feels that it involves him/her. That inability often creates crisis situations where things finally blow up and then need to be massaged because the feelings of the leader have been hurt. 

The upshot is that issues are never really resolved but often move in a cycle of a blow up, some sort of peacemaking and then another blow up and the cycle goes on. Eventually good people get tired of the drama and choose to move on.

Ego needs
Leaders who confuse their identity with their ministry are usually unable to let go, empower others and allow other voices to speak into situations. Their need for approval, for being at the center of the ministry and a need to control coupled with defensiveness puts staff in a difficult situation. Everything ultimately revolves around the leader and their needs. Ego also needs make it hard for such leaders to see issues in an objective manner because criticism even when constructive is seen as a threat. 

Because of their defensiveness, staff members may regularly play to the ego of their leader in order to get things done which feeds an unhealthy addiction all the while preventing candid, honest dialogue around real organizational issues. The result is a significant amount of drama around the leader and their relationships along with an inability of staff to make independent decisions.

Lack of self definition
The first two dysfunctions feed a third which is the inability of leaders to stake a position that is consistent. Because defensiveness prevents true dialogue and because ego needs drive their leadership, these leaders often move from one position to another - often in the direction of the last individual who stroked their ego. It is why such leaders change their minds often which causes all kinds of issues for staff or volunteers.

Triangulation
Leaders who suffer from these dysfunctions often prefer private conversations with staff or board members rather than laying all the cards on the table in a group setting where they cannot control the outcome as easily. It is a divide and conquer strategy which allows the leader to bond with another individual on issues but not allow the give and take of opinions and options that takes place in a group setting. It comes out of their need to control rather than to allow robust dialogue.

These dysfunctions create a fair amount of chaos, relational issues and drama. Whenever those characteristics are present it pays to look more closely at the EQ of the leader. They set the stage for either a healthy or dysfunctional organization. More importantly these dysfunctions keep the organization from becoming all that it can be. It is literally held hostage by the EQ issues of the leader.