Beware of the Toxic Leader

By Karl Bickel

"Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

November 8th is fast approaching, and it will be time to cast a vote for those who will lead local government for the next four years. It is important for all of us to make thoughtful choices, taking into consideration leadership styles that will inspire and motivate those serving in local government to get things done because they want to.

In the 21at Century workplace, an autocratic leadership style of the past does not make a good fit. It does not motivate people to "get things done because they want to." Today’s county employee, particularly millennials, feel suffocated under autocratic leadership, where power is concentrated in a few hands and decision making is made without input from others.

Autocrats are often ego driven and self-centered. They tend to surround themselves with yes men (women) to the detriment of the organization. This style of leadership is slowly fading away in the 21st Century making way for a more people centered approach.

Beware of the toxic leader. Symptoms of toxic leadership may include low morale, disgruntled employees, high rates of sick leave use, turf protection, high rates of turnover, and an us versus them climate that widens the gulf between leaders and the rank-and-file.

It can sometimes be difficult identifying the toxic leader. At times they can be a quiet seemingly timid leader who focuses on advancing their own personal goals at the expense of others and the organization. It is often rank-and-file personnel who will be the first to identify a toxic leader.

Toxic leaders poison the workplace environment, demoralize personnel, create disincentives, and produce unnecessary stress. They stifle creativity, decrease risk taking, and promote themselves on the backs of the rank-and-file. They present an obstacle to organizational progress and efficiency.

The challenges of a rapidly growing community like ours, one growing economically and growing in diversity, will be better served by leaders who understand what it is to put others before themselves. A servant leader if you will. Leadership can no longer be predicated on what can be done to personnel, management through fear and intimidation, but must be based on what can be done for the employee.

The most valued asset in our local government is the county worker who day in and day out provide the services that make our community what it is today. Selecting political leaders who recognize that and who support, who actually serve, county personnel for the next four years will determine what the future of our county will look like.

Those who can get what needs to be done because our rank-and-file county personnel want to do it will be the worthiest of our vote on November 8th.

To learn more about Karl Bickel visit his Website at

Originally published in Emmitsburg News-Journal:

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