These 2 Different Leadership Styles Cause the Same Negative, Toxic and Unproductive Workplace Cultures

While evaluating my most successful workplace transformation client projects in preparation for my newest seminar on employee engagement, I made a discovery.

I’m sure other thought leaders have already come to this place but for me it was quite a revelation and those in the workshop found it of tremendous value in evaluating their leadership styles and the work environment it has created.

What I discovered is that two diametrically opposed leadership styles, lead to very similar and very negative, toxic, non-productive workplace cultures.

Let’s take a deeper look:

Leadership Style 1: Command and Control

This leadership style is one in which the leader rules with an iron hand with a very structured workenvironment in which employees need to do things according to specific guidelines. Here is a list of characteristics of the command and control leader:

  • Demanding standards
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Offers an open door with a closed mind
  • Rarely accepts feedback
  • Rarely accepts others’ ideas
  • Micro-manager, too much accountability and too little trust
  • Feedback mostly/always critical
  • Little praise & rewards
  • Gives impression (via communication style) that efforts/results “never good enough”
  • Behavior/performance standards applied inconsistently
  • Defensive when challenged
  • Mistakes not tolerated
  • Places blame vs. solution focused
  • Reacts harshly to bad news
  • Often communicates with inappropriate tone and body language

Leadership Style 2: Avoid and Let Go
(something I also call the “avoid & tolerate leadership style”)

This leadership style is one in which the leader takes a laissez-faire, hands off approach that offers an unstructured work environment in which employees need to figure things out on their own. Here is a list of characteristics of the avoid and let go leader:

  • Unclear standards
  • Unclear expectations
  • Offers an open door, listens to ideas but fails to act on them
  • Gives lip service to other’s ideas
  • People pleaser
  • Defensive when challenged
  • Often asks for other’s ideas, tries to be inclusive but little follow through and often does their own thing anyway
  • Too much trust, not enough accountability
  • Wants improvement but doesn’t implement accountability, feedback & development systems
  • Sometimes plays favorites, different rules for different people without justification by performance/position
  • Avoids/Ignores addressing behavior/performance issues
  • Behaviors/performance standards applied inconsistently
  • Let’s things go “until” exploding with inappropriate tone & body language

I’ve had the challenge of working with both types of leaders and the work environments created by each style.

The amazing realization in evaluating these projects is that both leadership styles, as different as they are create the same negative, toxic workplace cultures.

Below you will read the type of workplace culture that manifests from both the “command and control” as well as the “avoid and let go” leadership styles.

In these workplace cultures, employees:

  • Have feelings of fear, insecurity & uncertainty, permeate work environment
  • Create bureaucracy & information control systems to create “job security”
  • Are mostly just task oriented
  • Do the minimum; rarely go the “extra mile,” on their own
  • Need constant reminding, oversight to get tasks done and meet deadlines
  • Will not make decisions or try to solve problems
  • Have a “Not my job” attitude
  • See things as “us vs. them”/“win/lose”/zero sum
  • Throw their co-workers “under the bus”- look for ways to lift themselves up by putting others down
  • Are compliant with job requirements, but little creativity, innovation & contribution
  • Absenteeism / turnover high
  • BMW present (bitching, moaning and whining)
  • CYA – Cover You A!#@# attitudes

If any of those characteristics are present in your work environment it may be worth a conversation to discuss which leadership style is causing the challenge, click here to schedule your private, 1:1 Leadership Communication Strategy Session .

If you have noticed a similar experience in your work environment with one or more of the two leadership styles I outlined above, please leave a comment below and add to the discussion.

In my next post I’ll be writing about what I call “The Goldilocks” approach to leadership so that organizational leaders can create that “just right” workplace culture.

’til then, make it a great week!

12 thoughts on “These 2 Different Leadership Styles Cause the Same Negative, Toxic and Unproductive Workplace Cultures

  1. Andy Vince says:

    I’ve just read about the two toxic styles of leadership, following off the back of listening to a talk on truths about five features of culture for any organisation.
    The two have dovetailed very helpfully together and I realise that I have been allowing myself to exercise some features of the ‘avoid and let go’ approach.
    So thanks for helping clarify things… have got some pointers to move forward now

  2. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    I’m pleased you found value in today’s blog post. Stay tuned for future posts as I will be sharing other strategies you may also find useful on your journey. The “avoid and let go” approach was something I struggled with early in my management career as well, and know from first-hand experience how detrimental it can be. Thanks for stopping by and being inspired to leave a comment.

  3. Gordon McAleer says:

    Skip identified two ends of the spectrum of bad leadership. He’s right that both styles of leadership can have disasterous results. Constructive feedback and leadership training can help a promising leader grow into a better place. Gordon McAleer

  4. Skip Weisman says:

    Thanks for stopping by and being inspired to leave a comment. I appreciate your insights and feedback and please you agree with my assessment regarding these opposite leadership styles. Thanks, again. Skip

  5. Bennet Simonton says:

    Spot on Skip.

    But to figure out what to do we need to know what leadership is

    And it would be nice to know How to Create Engaged Employees.

    Let me know what you think of these two videos.

    Best regards, Ben

  6. Ken Milloy says:

    I love the way you have captured these two styles and like you early on in my life I struggled with the Avoid and let go style to my detriment.

    Wondering…do you find that the Command and Control (in particular) and the Avoid style are not fully recognized by individuals operating from that basis. I have noticed that many in the C&C group tend to “reject” the notion that they are like that….

    Thanks for a nice overview.

    as always…onward with a smile. Ken

  7. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thanks for the positive reinforcement of this topic, of which I am very passionate.

    You make an interesting point about the “awareness” factor. I actually have found quite the opposite when I’ve brought the subject to the fore. And, interestingly I’ve found two different responses, which may be the beginnings of another article as a follow up to this.

    What I’ve noticed is that the “Command and Control” individuals know it, and are quite proud of it and believe it is the way they have to be to get anything accomplished. Usually, they are type A personalities with high expectations and standards and are such drivers, they just believe everybody should be at their level and operate that way. They are often the toughest to shift.

    Now, the “Avoid and Let Go” style I’ve found are aware of it unconsciously and know they are too lax and let things go too long before dealing with it. When I bring it to the surface, its almost like they are a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar. They are embarrassed and usually want help overcoming it.

    Interestingly, I’ve also had a one of my best clients in recent years be a combination of both. This was kind of scary because he had his hands on everything, micro-managed to the hilt, would rip people’s heads off if they made a mistake or wrong decision. But, in dealing with poor performance in general terms he would let issues linger, meaning he would be re-visiting issues over and over again, then he would let things go so long, he literally would explode. When that occurred, look out if you were in the vicinity. He’s much better now. We worked together 2 years ago, and we’re actually having lunch on Thursday as a check in to see how he’s doing.

    Thanks for stopping by and being inspired to comment, please come back again to add value to the conversation.

  8. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thanks for stopping by and adding those resources. I actually watched your Employee Engagement video last week from a LinkedIn Group post link I followed. Great stuff. I love your simple explanation and bottom line approach to framing what leadership is, and or, should be.

    I appreciate you offering these resources here and adding value to my discussion., Thanks, again and please come back again.

  9. Ken Milloy says:

    Thanks for you quick response Skip.

    Your dual type client must have been an interesting challenge and I hope that after your lunch we learn how he has progressed.

    I am going to reflect a good deal on some of my command and control encounters – I want to figure out if I have maybe misunderstood their perspective given your comments / insight. I’m wondering if we maybe aren’t saying the same thing – only from differing perspectives. I agree that they are Type A’s, have achieved their success through this style and are by far the hardest to change. At the same time I sense a little denial of being “Command and Control” preferring to see themselves as “sticklers for detail” or “experienced and more knowledgable” or ….

    Regardless, I sense that given the shift towards what a colleague has labelled “wierarchy” as opposed to hierarchy I’m guessing that C&C styles may well be on a slow transition outward.

    Lot’s to think about and I look forward to your future posts on this.

    Onward, Ken

  10. Tom Gurda says:

    “What is Leadership” is a good question to ask yourself every now and then. You might ask your subordinate management “what is leadership”. An opportunity for improvement can start with this question. Just individually asking them what is leadership will likely yield some interesting responses.
    Now ask them to summarize their Leadership Style and what makes it effective. Last…ask them to define or explain their perception of ego. Be on your toes regarding this vile threat. It really gets in the way of so many people that otherwise might have potential. Strong Leaders have their egos under control – period.
    “Ego” is one of the greatest causes for concern with new management. It is frequently becomes obvious in newer management and Leaders who fail to recognize it in their existing team will pay the price. Egos have their place and they are part of our balance, but unchecked – excessive Egos are an undesirable reality in your Leadership Team. Get their egos out of the way and you could have one incredible Leadership Team.
    The Definition of a Leader:
    “One who has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.”
    Let’s breakdown that definition and spell out what is a Leader vs what Leadership styles truly answer the the age old question of what is a Leader. Before we do, it is important to understand that people need the boundaries and the Leaders who set those boundaries. read more..

  11. jeremiah eun says:

    Hello Skip.
    my professor suggested me to look at this blog
    so I was going to just glance it
    but I am glad I was here to read your blog.
    I found several good your ideas of what should not be
    for the good leader.
    I will have to contribute of leadership presentation to the class,
    so if you dont mind, I will quote your ideas especially
    1 type “Command and Control”. sometimes, I have to admit myself being as a commander on the job
    I will use your idea under
    ◾Demanding standards
    ◾Unrealistic expectations
    ◾Offers an open door with a closed mind
    ◾Rarely accepts feedback
    ◾Rarely accepts others’ ideas
    ◾Feedback mostly/always critical
    ◾Defensive when challenged

    thank you

  12. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thank you for your interest in my work. I’m pleased you found it of value in your studies and application in your leadership opportunities.
    Tell your professor, I said “thank you” for referring you to my website. He/she is a smart person!

Comments are closed.