Dysfunctional leadership comes from a dysfunctional self.

You cannot be an effective leader if you are dysfunctional everyplace else. When I was growing up, my coaches told me, “Leave your problems at the door.” No matter how much I wanted to please my coaches, I could not detach part of me and take the rest of me to practice.

Believing you can effectively compartmentalize yourself into a separate being results in a false relationship with yourself. You might not have consciously created your dysfunctional leadership style, nor your personal interactions at home with friends or family, but unconscious decisions make poor excuses.

Your inside erosion creases callousness rather than compassion, combativeness instead of collaboration, and rejection versus acceptance. The challenges at work are not isolated; they are grown through unintentional nourishment.

Recently, I was coaching the director of a regional center. He was complaining that his team was not functioning properly. The culture was bad. His team was fighting among themselves, being disrespectful to one another, and lacking motivation to properly do their jobs.

When I questioned him about his role in the forming of the culture, he blamed specific team members. I responded, “That is an interesting viewpoint. What I asked was about your part in the forming of the culture.”

He slipped into the language of losers. Losers like to change but do not know how, they point the blame rather than look for solutions, and they worry or work on things that have little or nothing to do with the problem.

I asked him these five questions:

  • Can you stop blaming and be completely honest about the state of your part in the challenges of your team?
  • Can you stop lying about who you are right now and embrace who you need to be?
  • Can you alter your engagement approach with team members to get better responses?
  • Can you surrender the need to be right and focus on what it will take to make your team work together?
  • Can you measure the quality of your leadership based on results rather than intentions?

His response was: “I want to, but I don’t know how.” Once again, he slipped into the language of losers.

A defective leader cannot find the mojo to say, “I’m willing and ready.” When you are ready, the journey will not seem so impossible, because you are looking for the answers. The most important element of the equation is you.

When he became receptive to the idea that he was not separate from his leadership, he recognized that who he is becomes far more essential than his title. The title of leadership has no ability to motivate or communicate with those being led.

What team members want from a leader are the same things they desire from friends and family: to be valued, heard, praised, and loved. A leader who cannot give these qualities freely is a leader who does not own them. Not only can you not give what you do not have; you cannot expect it to be reciprocated.

I do not know how the journey of this leader will end. What I can tell you is that he stopped the blame game and is committed to working on the pieces of himself that need to be healed.

If he wants to get rid of the dysfunctional parts that hurt his leadership style, he must decide that he is willing to get beyond the pieces of him that are comfortable and content with his brokenness, and move toward healing the pieces that will make him an authentic leader.