12 Traits of Abusive Leadership

December 9, 2014
by Joseph Mattera

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By Joseph Mattera

There are many signs of abusive leadership, which can relate to leadership in the family, church, business, politics and or any organization or voluntary association. Also, often abusers were themselves the victims of abuse earlier in their life and family.

The following are twelve characteristics and traits of abusive leadership. (Abusive leadership can take upon themselves one or many of the following traits.)

1. A leader uses his position of power to receive favors from their subordinates.

Whenever a leader throws around his/her title with subordinates to extract personal favors from them — their motives are impure and said favors can get increasingly illicit. Unfortunately, often subordinates and/or mentees want to play the game as much as their leader to satisfy their ambitious quest for success (in that case, both are equally wrong).

2. A leader threatens and or manipulates subordinates to get what they want.

When abusive leaders don’t get what they want, they often resort to political, monetary, or relational manipulation to coerce their subordinates into submission. When this doesn’t work, the abuser often threatens to carry out actions detrimental to the family, career, or life of their subordinate to force compliance.

3. A leader uses their title primarily for entitlements rather then to serve others.

An abusive leader often desires positions of power so they can be served. They want the perquisites of their position without having a commensurate sacrifice for those under their auspices. They love the influence and power that comes with their position — this is always dangerous and can lead leadership abuse.

4. A leader attaches them to the most vulnerable in there midst.

Abusive leaders often stay away from smart, confident, independent subordinates who are able to think and take care of themselves. They prey upon the naïve, the vulnerable, and or the stargazers who will do anything to have access to power. Leaders who elevate the vulnerable in their company but shy away from confident individuals with strong core values demonstrate that their desire is to control and manipulate others more then to develop and mature others.

5. A leader uses father wounds in others to gain paternal trust.

In a world rampant with family fragmentation, a large percentage of people in organizations have an orphan spirit and/or father wounds (as a result of their biological father’s neglect and or abandonment) Abusive male leaders can easily discern this need for paternal affirmation and utilize this felt need in subordinates to take advantage of them. They first gain their trust by showing them attention, earn their loyalty, and then eventually illicit sexual or other favors from them as an expression of some sort of perverse paternal bond with them.

6. A leader makes subordinates inordinately dependent upon them and isolate them.

An abusive leader often makes vulnerable subordinates monetarily, relationally, and or emotionally dependent upon them by “taking care of their needs.” Their goal is to isolate subordinates so they can continue to control them and extract from them whatever they desire.

7. A leader demands absolute loyalty to them.

Abusive leaders do not want their subordinates or mentees to receive help or instruction from anybody else. They demand absolute authority and feel threatened when or if their subordinate goes to any one else for counsel or aid.

8. A leader threatens and or attempts to scandalize those who don’t comply with their demands.

Abusive leaders slander those who turn away from them or whom they can no longer control. If they see that a person is or becomes self-aware and/or independent and refuses to “drink their cool-aid,” they bad-mouth them and try to limit their ability to succeed without them.

9. A leader uses and objectifies others for their own agenda.

An abusive leader views others merely as a means to and end to satisfy their personal agenda. They don’t value people for who they are but objectify them to extract from them things they desire for themselves. Once said abuser gets what they want from a person — they ignore them and go on to the next person they perceive can help them.

10. A leader gets violent and exhibits rage when they don’t have their way.

Often an abuser has a short fuse and goes into fits of rage to intimidate their subordinates. If a person has a leader who attempts to illicit obedience through the use of threats, they should disassociate themselves as soon as possible or they may become co-dependent and complicit with said abuser’s abuse of others.

11. A leader who is narcissistic and focused only on self-gratification.

A leader who attempts to use their position merely as a means for satisfying their ego, to satiate selfish desires and enjoy a lifestyle of consumerist idolatry are narcissistic and don’t care about the well being of subordinates. This myopic obsessive self-focus always leads to sacrificing others for the sake of their own aggrandizement and pleasure.

12. Abusive leaders are “control-freaks.”

Abusive leaders freak out when those in their family and or organization do not bow down to their every demand. These “control freaks” are motivated by insecurity and fear who try to create followers in their own image and likeness. They demand predictability, obedience to the status quo, and squash critical thinking, creativity, and independence. They would rather have robotic obedience that produces mediocrity rather then flourishing family members and or subordinates who fly like eagles.

In conclusion, God gives dire warnings to leaders who only care about themselves to the neglect of those they are supposed to serve. (Read Jeremiah 23:1-4, Ezekiel 34:1-10) Effective leaders understand that the main reason why they have been entrusted with influence is to facilitate growth and maturity in the lives of those under their care.

[Original post: http://josephmattera.org/bill-cosby-twelve-signs-abusive-leadership/]

Dr. Joseph Mattera has been in full-time ministry since 1980 and is currently the Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York, a multiethnic congregation of 40 nationalities that has successfully developed numerous leaders and holistic ministry in the New York region and beyond. This article was first published on his website at: http://josephmattera.org.

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