One reason for the interest in destructive leadership is that understanding of the “negativity bias” was emerging around that time. We learned that negative information has greater motivational and emotional significance than positive information. Further, negative information of different types is perceived as more dissimilar than positive information of different types.
Bottom line consequences of different types of destructive leadership? Abusive leaders (ridiculing, belittling, bullying) generate significant anxiety and negative affect in followers, while exploitative leaders (self-interest, taking credit, manipulating) significantly increase followers’ intention to leave now or later in addition to generating negative affect.
Over the past 15 years, researchers have explored the nature and processes of destructive leadership – defined as a process over a period of time where repeated activities, experiences and/or relationships led by supervisors is perceived as hostile and/or obstructive by followers.
This led to research interest in exploring different destructive leader behaviors, which might lead to different impacts, by authors Schmid, Pircher Verdorfer, and Peus in Germany. Today’s dose features their 2018 article titled Different shades—different effects? Consequences of different types of destructive leadership.
(This article is part of a series, available for download, titled: Fifty Shades of Grey: Exploring the Dark Sides of Leadership and Followership.)
The authors explain the rationale for their investigation:
“The ‘bad is stronger than good’ phenomenon has important implications for the domain of leadership. Not only are destructive leader behaviors likely to have a far stronger impact on followers than constructive behaviors, but the adverse impact of such destructive behaviors is likely to outweigh the benefits gained from positive relationships (e.g., with coworkers or customers). Negative interactions with a leader are likely perceived as more nuanced and more dissimilar from each other than in the case of positive information about the leader.
Based on the literature, the authors created a four-quadrant construct (Figure 1 in the article) with two dimensions to organize destructive leader behaviors:
Let’s have a closer look.
The authors note that it makes sense that an abusive leader, who shouts and belittles, has a different effect on a follower than a leader who exploits followers, or a leader who violates organizational rules. Their research sets out to test this hypothesis.
The first study surveyed 297 participants (46% women, mean age of 26, 95% in for-profit sector) and divided them into three experimental groups –scenarios on abusive leadership, exploitative leadership, and organization-directed. Each group was presented with hypothetical scenarios and asked to rate them using 6-7 items for their assigned category.
The second study was a field study where 167 followers from a variety of occupations and organizations (72% for-profit, 37% female, 67% with university degree, mean age 36) rated their immediate supervisor in terms of the three categories. Participants' perception of abusive supervision and exploitative leadership were assessed with 15-item scales, and organization-directed destructive leadership by the same assessment used in the first study.
In both studies, the authors examined the differential impact of these destructive leader behaviors on two outcomes:
Based on this research, that shows that different kinds of destructive leadership have different impacts on followers, coaches have the opportunity to:
CITATION: Schmid, E. A., Pircher Verdorfer, A., & Peus, C. V. (2018). Different shades—different effects? Consequences of different types of destructive leadership. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. 27-42.
This article is part of a series by Frontiers in Psychology, available for download, titled: Fifty Shades of Grey: Exploring the Dark Sides of Leadership and Followership.
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