Sometimes leaders are not acting as leaders. They protect or promote themselves. In these cases, they may lie to the people they are responsible for, they provoke discord among their people, and they act unethically or illegally. Rather than striving to do the right thing at the right time and for the right reasons, reckless leaders are prideful, arrogant, belligerent, and determined to get their way no matter what.
So, what do you do if you are faced with an unfit leader at your organization? You have some critical decisions to make—and they will not always be easy.
You need to consider the nature of the leader’s behavior. You should first ask yourself whether the leader in your organization did something you just disagree with or if they did something truly intolerable. To do this, you need to ask yourself some questions: Did the leader do something illegal? Did they violate a code of ethics? Was it a one-time outburst, or is it a consistent pattern of uncivil behavior? You should also observe and consider how the leader’s behavior impacts others at your organization. You may need to report what you see if it violates the law, ethics, or company policy.
You should never tolerate being made to feel uncomfortable. The more a leader behaves unacceptably, the more it becomes accepted as the norm. You may feel outraged the first time a boss or director does something you cannot tolerate. If you do not speak up and it happens again, you may feel slightly less upset. Eventually, you may accept that is just how things are, and the situation will not ever change. You must always speak up when you see behavior that should not continue.
You need to contemplate the repercussions. This is where it can become difficult. When you decide to speak up about what is wrong (or not), you may experience consequences in your career and life. Depending on the severity of the leader’s behavior, you may be able to report the actions or take advantage of whistleblower laws anonymously. If you deny or ignore the leader’s unethical behavior, and it becomes public, you may also be guilty.
You should always think about all your options. When a leader behaves recklessly, you do not have to stand idly by. Speak up and use your voice to share your concerns or take official action with your company’s HR department or the legal system. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you keep a written record of events with as much documentation as possible. Remember, it is not documented; it did not happen.
Just because someone is in a leadership position does not mean they deserve to be there. Leadership is, after all, more than a title. Whether you are dealing with a tyrant, a bully, or a boss who continually undermines their people, take a stand, and do not allow toxic leadership to continue. And this will help you thrive.