Healthy vs Unhealthy Leaders

Who are you Following? Healthy vs. Unhealthy Leadership. Life is made up of following the leader.  Everyone will and does follow someone…

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Bryan Fraser
July 11th, 2023
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Who are you Following?

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Leadership.

Life is made up of following the leader.  Everyone will and does follow someone, the question is, do you know who you’re following?  Healthy leadership is easy to detect, but hard to find. It is rare, because healthy leaders inspire you to become better than you are, not compete against who you currently are.  Unhealthy leadership is what people so easily get swayed into and it is a big problem today. Like I mentioned, unhealthy leadership is something most people aren’t aware of until you find yourself in a place you don’t like and don’t want to be at all.   

After 25 years in my position in leadership I’ve learned by experiencing healthy and unhealthy leaders.  I have sat under many different leaders, specifically in business corporations, institutions and even churches in ministry. I’ve noticed common traits that healthy and unhealthy leaders possess. How do you measure unhealthy leadership? It’s very simple… it is an integrity test, it will always be an integrity test. Your integrity will produce either character failure, or character growth.  Both are measured by trust, honor, and respect. 

Here are five key characteristics of an unhealthy leader that are commonly found in leadership positions today. 

1) Competitive:

These people are driven and want to be the best but it's their job to help others succeed. In the business world they fail to see the people behind them as co-laborers and compete for title, position and opportunity.

2) Combative:

Combative leaders are easily offended and defensive. They like calling the shots and don't want to be challenged. They will remind you often of their position of power when they feel threatened.

3) Critical

Unhealthy leaders use their position to provide critical feedback without specific ways to improve. These leaders do not accept responsibility for their own faults and actions, they are quick to criticise others to justify their behaviour. If the leader you are following makes you feel like they are the only one you can trust, that breeds an atmosphere of blame and insecurity.  Trust is not present.

4) Cunning

Manipulative, deceitful, quick to cover up their mistakes and they use private conversations to vilify their competition to superiors. These leaders know who they need in order to climb the ranks and how to behave to remain in their position of power. Their agenda is about being number one with self, instead of working with others to build a team. 

5) Cocky

Cocky leaders believe they are untouchable, that their gifts and skill sets are so special they will never be held accountable or be let go. They operate in false humility and reverse pride to appear unworthy when in reality they believe they are irreplaceable.

I have seen these five characteristics in both males and females, large corporate settings, team settings, and churches large and small. I've been under some of their leadership and watched others quit, cater and cave because they would rather run for their lives than stay and subject themselves to further pain and delusion in these toxic unhealthy environments. I have been a runner and I have stayed - I've found myself to grow in both. I've become a better leader by learning how NOT to lead and yet I still find myself today one decision away from struggling with one of these unhealthy characteristics.

There is not a perfect leader, however, leadership is and will always be an inside job that starts with heart level humility and character level training which will lead the way through hard difficult conversations, critique, guidance and overcoming conflicting challenges and disagreements. Understanding this, we won't always like to hear difficult feedback or how we're held accountable, but this is the fine line between being a healthy leader and an unhealthy leader which can be blurry and can get messy if we don't feel supported or heard by people you lead.

Highest level of importance to become a healthy leader:

A healthy leader needs healthy people surrounding them and someone they can be held accountable to. Usually these people come from an outside source of those you are leading and with absolutely no compromise in sharing with you the truth for the overall big picture of healthy leaders leading and inspiring healthy people. These are people you can call and who will process with you as needed, again for the purpose of the bigger picture.  Healthy leaders are always looking at the impacts of their character and decisions and how it impacts the bigger picture of humanity.

A healthy leader will be tested and challenged beyond any pay grade or scale and is one decision away from being compromised falling into one of the characteristics I’ve mentioned to a point of absolute no return.

Becoming a great leader takes courage, strength, humility and a healthy mindset towards yourself and others. It's beyond your skills, talents, passions and desires and it requires the ability to sacrifice your own self-interests for the good of others and the organization that you lead. Becoming a great leader is about ownership of the influence you have been given to make a difference.

Healthy leaders must always be aware you are one bad season away to becoming an unhealthy leader. You must walk in humility, check your ego and not allow prideful tactics to take root. Pride always wants to be above others and the root of pride is insecurity. Healthy leaders will not tolerate pride in themselves or others within the sphere of influence. It takes a strong leader to stand in the truth of what’s right when facing leaders who want to be right.  Doing what is right is what breeds trust, and character and true relationships that last a lifetime.

Stay humble, check yourself and always serve other people with the right motive and intent. Just be nice! Keep yourself in the healthy lane and always watch your step. What qualifies you in becoming a great leader is having a passion to grow, dependent on staying healthy on the inside and remembering that character training never ends, it's only the beginning.

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