Self-Defeating Leadership Behaviors and the Impact on Organization

Top management workers of firms and organizations have been often seen to engage in behaviors leading to their downfall or activities that have sabotaged their positions and that of the company they work for. Usually, this behavior does not only compromise the leaders’ positions in the firms where they are working. Conversely, it is likely to be detrimental to these firms sometimes even stalling them or greatly damaging their competitive strategies. Considering that the leading managers are supposed to offer stewardship of the company and its success, their misbehavior will automatically make the firms decay. Basically, companies are run by set of rules that have to be followed and certain business strategies supposed to be safeguarded by top leaders of the organizations. Thereby, if the top leaders elicit traits compromising themselves, they fail to follow the corporate rules of the firms they work for and eventually negatively impact the firm’s business. Self-defeating leadership traits ruin their reputation, the organization’s culture, the organization’s work environment, and the organization’s line of business.

In 2013, an executive at Wal-Mart was forced to submit his resignation after he had posted a message on a social media platform that the company’s sales were a disaster (Barr & McCoy, 2013). Now, this is a rather non-issue trait, which may be perceived by many non-corporate people. However, anyone who has been in the corporate business will tell that posting negative information on social media is actively engaging in airing and disseminating negative information about any events happening there (Durbin, n.d.; Kaiser & Craig, n.d.) whether it is true or not. It means that the leader becomes an agent who reports negative information to the customers and the shareholders alike. This would lead to mistrust between the customers and the firm leading to compromised sales numbers as well as mistrust and dissatisfaction of the shareholders. For the company, there is a solution: either they compromise their financial positions or they replace the current leading managers with others who they trust (Durbin, n.d.; Ferris, Brown, & Heller, 2009). Therefore, airing any negative information about the organization, especially being a leader, compromises both the person and the firm. Thereby, leaders should resist the slightest temptation to make public comments about anything wrong that may be plaguing their organizations.

Furthermore, the workplace, especially for young unmarried employees, is a platform for meeting romantic partners. It particularly refers to the careers that require employees to dedicate much time to work. However, when top leaders engage in inappropriate office romantic affairs, they are likely to get themselves and their partners ‘derailed’ from both their corporate as well as their professional ethics (Aubrey, 2012; Durbin, n.d.). The instances when the leading managers and their subordinates do not professionally perform their duties, lead to deterioration of employee performance, production, efficiency, efficacy, accountability, and compromised success of the firm. In addition, romantic office affairs between the leading manager and their subordinate can lead to insubordination and blackmail as the latter fail to act appropriately being involved in an affair with the top managers. Thus, the management leaders cannot dismiss or take any action against their partners because of fear of getting embarrassed or litigated, especially if the romantic affair was inappropriate (Durbin, n.d.; Ferris, Brown, & Heller, 2009). Therefore, top managers should shun and if possible actively discourage romantic relations at the workplace.

Another negative aspect of self-defeating behavior refers to avarice and extreme desire to acquire material wealth, recognition, or status. It is considered to be a negative trait that is likely to be severe to the organization. Karma and charisma are good drivers motivating people to always seek an advantage in future, and it is inarguable that everyone wants to make money and occupy the best positions wherever they work. However, avarice behaviors of leading mangers can lead to loss-making, shame, and dismissal among other unwarranted outcomes for the managers (Aubrey, 2012; Durbin, n.d.). A manager may spend a considerable amount of money for their exclusive and rather personal gain or for aesthetic value alone at the expense of production financing. For instance, it is both unethical and unprofessional for the leader to spend huge amounts of money to decorate their office or spend over US 25,000 for refurbishing a private bathroom next to his office (Durbin, n.d. ). This is ridiculous and insensible as no shareholder would want that type of manager in their office (Durbin, n.d.; Ferris, Brown, & Heller, 2009). Thus, despite being encouraged to be professional and outstanding, top leaders should draw the line between the positive charisma and the negative one like avarice.

In addition, many top managers may suffer from narcissism, which is the uncontrollable and extreme belief that one deserves unlimited rewards, pay, reinforcements (Aubrey, 2012; Durbin, n.d.). For example, a prominent African leader in post-colonial Democratic Republic of Congo, Mobutu Ssese Sseko would take a flight from DRC to France just to shop for clothes and jewelry and on one occasion, had to fly to France and back for his wife’s birthday. Such narcissistic and lavish desires satisfied by the leaders may lead to increased expenditure and inflated wage bills for the organizations compromising finances and production rates resulting in limited returns for the firm (Durbin, n.d.; Ferris, Brown, & Heller, 2009).

Sometimes leaders may be dissatisfied with an organization, and if they are not shareholders, they may decide to resign from their positions. However, being hostile or animated about the former employers is unethical and unprofessional behavior. One may think that by mentioning all the negative things about the organization during an exit interview would discredit the firm and probably taint its image in the public domain (Aubrey, 2012; Durbin, n.d.). However, this misbehavior and hostility will be equally damaging the exiting leader. In cognitive terms, a leader who talk negatively about his former employer is not emotionally intelligent. For leaders and any other employees, it is always amicable to speak well of the company, and if they cannot conceal their actual dissatisfaction and reasons for quitting, it would be good if the leaders would make recommendations about what the firm should improve (Aubrey, 2012; Durbin, n.d.). Being vengeful about the company in an exit interview would negatively affect employment prospects of the leader.


To conclude, self-defeating behaviors and actions that leaders take may negatively influence their further career as well as the reputation of the company. Inappropriate office romance, spreading negative information about the company, disregarding the company rules, negative traits like avarice and narcissism are likely to sabotage the leader. This behavior does not only destroy the leader’s position but also deteriorate the organization business. The latter are likely to be plunged into disrepute and mistrust by its customers. Besides, for public companies, the shareholders may lack faith in the leading team of the company, employee engagement will be greatly hampered resulting in insubordination and inappropriate relations. In the long run, the organizations might face consequences that could have otherwise been averted.


Aubrey, L. (2012). The Effect of Toxic Leadership. CARLISLE BARRACKS, PENNSYLVANIA 17013: United States Army College. Retrieved from

Barr, A., & McCoy, K. (2013). Wal-Mart replaces its CEO with a company insider. USA TODAY. Retrieved from

Durbin, A. (n.d.). Political Blunders Within Organizations. In E. Vigoda-Gadot,  A handbook of Organization Politics, 2nd ed., 172-192. UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Ferris, D., Brown, D., & Heller, D. (2009). Organizational supports and organizational deviance: The mediating role of organization-based self-esteem. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 108, 279-286. Retrieved from

Kaiser, R., & Craig, S. (2014). Destructive Leadership in and of Organizations. In The Oxford Handbook of Leadership and Organizations,  260-284. London: Oxford University Press.