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Leadership Qualities - the Difference between Good Leaders and Toxic Leaders

Updated on March 4, 2013

A Leader Creates Loyal Followers

Many leaders are charismatic people who have an aura of attractiveness, a magnetism, and an heir of self assurance that announces their winning style to all those who follow them. Leaders create loyalty among the people they are leading. Most leaders have charisma which people want to be around them.

Leaders are in all walks of life from politics, to business, as sports players, spiritual leaders, managers, and also in cults. Leaders possess great skills of persuasion in order to lead others and convince them of the same vision the leader has.

Good Leaders and Toxic Leaders

People are not always aware of who they really are following.

Leaders hold a lot of power are able to accomplish things by unifying people towards a common aim. There are two types of leaders, good leaders and toxic leaders.

Good leaders do things for the benefit of the team. When they win, everyone wins. Good leaders use their abilities to build and make things happen that move a team forward.

Toxic leaders use others to serve their own needs. They will enhance themselves so they gain at the expense of others. Toxic leaders are often found running cults. They will use their charm to manipulate, abuse and undermine the purpose their followers joined them.

Followers and Their Need for Psychological Fulfillment

Leaders are seductive people. They can make themselves and their vision seem attractive to all. A toxic leader may be very charismatic, but they lack integrity, and honesty. They may be cynical, arrogant and tyrannical. Many followers of cult leaders are looking for the leaders to meet their psychological needs. Followers are attracted to the idea that these leaders can fulfill many of their psychological needs. Cult leaders know they are doing this, and play on people’s basic needs.

Many followers are looking for safety, security, orderliness in a world where they feel very much alone. The lure of joining with someone who is more powerful, smarter and stronger than they makes them feel more protected. Cult leaders promise a utopia with unrealistic visions that prey on their followers fears through grand illusions of the power and protection they will have being part of the cult.

Leaders Who Look to Serve Their Own Interests

All leaders possess the ability to have noble dreams. A good leader creates a path that can be accomplished realistically. A good leader makes themselves responsible for the end result. A toxic leader blames others if the desired results are not yielded.


The Iron Law of Oligarchy states that complex systems like political parties, unions and other large organizations inherently have a small clique of leaders whose interest is to serve themselves. This concept was first termed by Robert Michels, a German sociologist. Usually a small group of people have the responsibility to make the right choices for the organization. Michels believed those that make these decisions desire the rewards, influence, and status they gain from their leadership role. Michels believed that people have a mass psychology of a desire to be led. This desire strenghtens the dominant position of the leader. They then make decisions that inevitably protect the power they were given instead of considering the entirety of the group they were put in position to serve. Without power or consideration of the group’s needs, people develop apathy.

Social and Interpersonal Skills of Leaders

Both good leaders and toxic leaders possess superior social skills. But toxic leaders have poor use of interpersonal skills. Both types of leaders may be narcissitic personalities. A toxic leader uses intimidation and manipulation to get what they want. They use their charm to get want they want by seducing and then betraying their followers.

Toxic leaders will deny their members their self respect so that they can continue to dominate and control their followers. Toxic leaders are ego driven. They are more interested in their own gains and in doing so ruin the morale and ability of the group to achieve. Toxic leaders diminish free thinking among the group. They hurt the efficiency and effectiveness of their subordinates.

The Interconnection of Leaders and Followers

A leader gets to the top through their ability to influence others, garner their respect either through fear or through admiration. The leader and how the group behaves are interconnected.

A good leader creates productivity and builds a team of people to work together, using the strength of each of its members. A strong leader is inclusive so that everyone is a part of the group, the vision, and the results.

A good leader knows their own strengths and weaknesses. They are open to feedback and self knowledge about their own shortcomings. A leader makes necessary changes so that the bigger picture comes to fruition. They will look at what they did well and what they did not. Self assessment is important to a good leader.


Recognizing a Good Leader and Bad Leader

A good leader knows their own strengths and weaknesses. They are open to feedback and self knowledge about their own shortcomings. A leader makes necessary changes so that the bigger picture comes to fruition. They will look at what they did well and what they did not. Self assessment is important to a good leader.

Those who lead by authoritarian means, where people are told to not question the leader, to follow blindly and be submissive are bad leaders. Poor leaders use tactics of punishment and fear. They create divisions within the group.

Sometimes we do not easily recognize who is leading us. Sometimes we are fooled. But once recognized, it is important that we don’t continue to follow these type of leaders.


Are you a leader or a follower?

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    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      6 years ago

      hi tlm, thanks for stopping by and commenting and for your kind votes and sharing. I like they way you described yourself as a leader. It sounds like you are a very vigilant person who makes sure things get done the right way. Leadership has everything to do with personality.

    • tlmcgaa70 profile image

      tlmcgaa70 

      6 years ago from south dakota, usa

      excellent hub TKI...i find it interesting that you have had quite a few readers, and of the 5 who voted in your poll, all say leader. i also chose leader, as that is my personality. i tend to take charge of situations where no leader exists, or where someone is trying to lead but has no idea how or no clue to what is needed. i have met many so called leaders who want to be seen as a leader but have no clue what it means to lead. i think you should have a third option in your poll..."are you both a leader and a follower?" because a good leader is also a good follower...if that option had been given that is the one i would have chosen. you made some terrific points in this hub. i voted up, useful and interesting as well as shared it with my followers and facebook.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      6 years ago

      Hi Dilip, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am glad you liked the hub and I appreciate your up votes.

    • dilipchandra12 profile image

      Dilip Chandra 

      6 years ago from India

      Excellent analysis. Very well written hub comparing the good and a toxic leader. I like the above presentation. Voted UP

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      6 years ago

      Hi BreakfastPop, Thanks for commenting. I think toxic leaders are toxic to begin with and they lure people in with their charisma, so they achieve things for themselves. Thanks for the up votes.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      6 years ago

      Very interesting piece. Often leaders turn toxic because as they always say a little bit of power can be a dangerous thing. We are badly in need of a leader in Washington, because the person there now is toxic! Up interesting and awesome.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      6 years ago

      @tsmog, You are correct to point out the association between narcissism and leaders, whether they are toxic or good leaders. I am glad my hub got you thinking. It is funny to thank you for following me in a hub about leaders, but I am following you too! Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      6 years ago

      @lobo, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate your up votes and for sharing my hub. All the best to you.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      6 years ago

      @charmike4, You are so right Michael. You listed many leaders who charmed their way to power. It is a fascinating topic about how the masses can be manipulated. Thanks for your kind comments.

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 

      6 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Hello toknowinfo. A very informative hub hitting some very important points of leadership. Approaching this subject with a contrast view is enlightening. Though you touched a smidge on the leader and narcissism there is great truth to that no matter the side of fence.

      Just getting home from work (9pm) desiring to re-write my profile/bio arriving here at hubpages I was greeted with this hub. I am becoming a believer of synchronicity more and more. Thank you for providing thoughts to ponder before doing that quest!

      oh! By the way I followed you, so what does that mean? :)

    • lobobrandon profile image

      Brandon Lobo 

      6 years ago

      Well written and depicts the qualities well. Great hub voted up and shared!

    • charmike4 profile image

      Michael Kromwyk 

      6 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      I think that top leaders have high levels of self awareness and your hub reflects this belief toknowinfo. Some of the most powerfulleaders of all time have been highly charismatic leaders but toxic at the same time. Think of Hilter, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam, etc, all highly charismatic leaders who used their power for their own gain and committed evil acts.

      Really thoughful hub, thanks toknowinfo. Cheers Michael

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR

      toknowinfo 

      6 years ago

      HiPP, It is very hard to tell the difference between toxic leaders and good leaders. If we good tell the difference, the toxic ones would never get far. Thanks for sharing and for the up votes.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Very interesting article! I have met my share of both good and toxic leaders and sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. I liked what you said about people looking to leaders to meet their psychological needs. So true. This was a very thought-provoking hub. Voted up and more; I am also going to share this. Great hub!

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