Toxic Leadership in the Military

Toxic leadership involves leadership styles that poison the employee, the organization, or both. This paper captures a common phenomenon for toxic leadership (symptoms) useful for diagnosing or addressing toxic leadership in military organizations.

In over 40 years in the workplace, I have witnessed creativity, communication and innovation stifled because of toxic leadership. My experience was in the military, my primary research was with the military, and my goal is to better understand toxic leadership to inform potential mitigation techniques for the military. This research may also be generalizable to non-military organizations as suggested by a preliminary study that included university professors. My research suggests toxic leadership exists because senior leaders, those leaders above the toxic leader, allow it to exist, either unwittingly or knowingly. Furthermore, non-toxic leaders can create toxic environments by their inaction or inability to make timely decisions. That inaction allows problems to develop, then fester and ultimately, creates a toxic environment. Also, non-toxic leaders can create toxic environments by not dealing with incompetent subordinates, like the senior leader who allows a toxic leader to continue to act out toxic behaviors. Incompetent subordinates generate problems that can contribute to a toxic environment due to their technical shortcomings or low EQ (emotional quotient). The most effective mitigation is confronting and reporting toxic leader behaviors when they occur.

Authors: Anthony L. Hinen


Cite as: Hinen, A.L. (2020). Toxic leadership in the military. Muma Business Review 4(5). 65-79.