10 Types of Toxic Leaders

By | June 29, 2019

[June 29, 2019] If you’ve never had to deal with a toxic leader, you are one lucky person. Whether it is in a job, an organization composed of volunteers, or at home, toxic leaders make our lives miserable and actively inhibit our sense of wellbeing and ability to get things done.

U.S. Army Lieutenant General Hal Moore and Mike Guardia in their 2017 book, Hal Moore on Leadership, identify 10 types of toxic leaders. I found their reasoning compelling and their logic straightforward. You can find a number of articles that also do a good job of categorizing these toxic leaders, but only Hal Moore has the experience under fire, in combat, to flush out the manure from the practical.

Hal Moore and Mike Guardia list these as types of toxic leaders:

  1. Bully Leaders: those who inflict emotional pain, threats, insults, and invalidate the opinion of others.
  2. Narcissistic Leaders: those who are arrogant, self-congratulatory, heavy-handed, and overbearing.
  3. Divisive Leaders: those who are like the narcissistic leader but channel their arrogance toward one person or group of persons.
  4. Insular Leaders: those that form cliques and that ensure their friends enjoy special privileges.
  5. Hypocritical Leaders: those who rarely practice what they preach.
  6. Enforcement Leaders: those only interested in pleasing their superiors; so anything goes to accomplish that task.
  7. Callous Leaders: has a blatant disregard for his subordinates’ welfare or desires.
  8. Senior Preference Leaders: gives preferential treatment to those who served the longest.
  9. Credit-hog Leaders: takes credit for the success or contribution of others.
  10. Blame-shifting Leaders: these are quick to point the finger for anything that goes wrong.

Of course, any leader can have a combination of these traits. For example, my first Company Commander (who I’ve written about before), was both a hypocritical leader and a credit-hog too. Narcissism has been a catch-all term. Moore and Guardia do a great job of laying out the similarities.

On a similar line of thinking, there is an excellent article1 by Skip Prichard, He does a good job of doing the same thing as Moore and Guardia but lays it out in an easy-to-read format.


  1. https://www.skipprichard.com/8-types-of-toxic-managers/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

14 thoughts on “10 Types of Toxic Leaders

  1. Eric Coda

    This is a really good list and I like the way Hal Moore, et al, laid out the ideas behind these 10 toxic leaders. Seems like everyone has something to say about toxic leaders but rarely find the method behind them. Just search the Internet to find some good stuff written. I’ve found that you have to read a number of quality articles to get a good sense of any idea.

  2. Gil Johnson

    Another good article. Gen Hal Moore must have been one great guy.

    1. Lynn Pitts

      Agreed. To study people who have been successful and duplicate their thinking and effort, is one good way to become successful yourself. Also, it is a good idea to study, very closely, great failures so that you don’t repeat their mistakes.

  3. Andrew Dooley

    Toxic leaders are focussed on the short-term game and what they can get out of a situation as opposed to the long-term game and what is best for the organization and the team.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Correct, if you find yourself in an organization that permits toxic leadership, start planning your exit strategy.

  4. Nick Lighthouse

    You need to be aware of the impact toxic leaders can have on you and others around you because you will be shaped by this type of behavior.

  5. Yusaf from Texas

    Toxic Leadership has been defined in the research paper Toxic Leadership a Contextual Framework as:
    “A process in which leaders, by dint of their destructive behavior (sic) and/or dysfunctional personal characteristics inflict serious and enduring harm on their followers, their organizations (sic), and non-followers, alike.”

    1. Albert Ayer

      I really liked this article. Thank for sharing the link.

    2. Watson Bell

      Circular firing squad or lemmings over a cliff. I haven’t figured out yet which analogy is best for the Democratic debates.

      1. Tracey Brockman

        You are a really funny guy, Watson.

    3. Harry B. Donner

      I subscribe to the NYP and read it every day just like I read Gen. Satterfield’s blog daily. They both give me satisfaction that there are some smart people in the world.

Comments are closed.