Regarding professional dress, I thought it meant I had to wear a navy pantsuit. That was the example I saw in my previous jobs, in the media, when I look up businesswoman on Google and profile pictures on LinkedIn. I decided to dig deep, and I went to meet successful female leaders in the workplace. I met a few women along the way who had the job titles I wanted, yet I literally felt like running away from her based on how she acted. That kind of person is not the leader I would like to follow.
Examples of traits of some toxic leaders that I’ve met:
1. The one that makes you feel intimidated (in a bad way)
A little bit of intimidation can inspire someone to work harder. But then there’s the more toxic kind. Before the leader enters the room, employees will warn “oh, she is coming” as a signal to everybody to be ready in their positions. There is no willingness to establish eye contact with her. Her face looks serious most of the time, and you will not see her smiling a lot. You will meet her mostly dressed in a dark suit or red jacket with a straight silhouette and sharp angles, very simple, clean with almost no accessories. I can’t imagine her wearing light pink silhouette dress from soft fabric and flowered scarf on her neck. This story is not about her.
2. The one you feel is constantly judging you
She will ask more questions than listen to me. Her listening feels more like checking what I have said. There’s no conversation between us — it is more like receiving instructions from her. I find her as arrogant, her chin mostly is a little bit up. She talks down to me and is often condescending.
3. The one that sees both men and women as weak
In general, she perceives men as weak. She always seeks for a man that would be emotionally stronger than her. But unsuccessfully, because she doesn’t provide room for anyone to be her equal. She perceives many women as weak as well and doesn’t have female friends. She makes them feel in doubt about themselves, so she can feel more powerful than them.
4. The one who makes you feel less than you are
I met one woman who seemed very powerful to me, but being around her made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. I felt a bit fearful of her. She actually seemed like someone I’d like to work with and learn something from, but then quickly thought that her power and attitude would overwhelm me and make me feel unworthy. I could see that she leads and builds relationships using one skill — to make others feel fear.
Have you been thinking about what kind of leader you are and how you make others feel? Is your leadership style helping you to establish good connections with people? Are you making your colleagues and team feel included and supported?