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The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians--and How We Can Survive Them Hardcover – 2 Sep 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 318 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; First Edition edition (2 Sept. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195166345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195166347
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 2.8 x 16.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,348,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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... a subtle, scholarly book. (Financial Times)

About the Author

Jean Lipman-Blumen is the Thornton F. Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management, Claremont Graduate University, in California. She is a co-founding director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Leadership and served as a special advisor in the White House under President Carter. Her books include The Connective Edge: Leading in an Interdependent World and Hot Groups: Seeding Them, Feeding Them, and Using Them to Ignite Your Organization (with Harold J. Leavitt), which was the Association of American Publishers' "Business Book of the Year."

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris TOP 100 REVIEWER on 23 Sept. 2005
Format: Hardcover
Those who have read Lipman-Blumen's previously published Connective Leadership and/or Hot Groups can correctly assume that she again offers brilliant insights, eloquently expressed, in her newest book. She responds to two especially interesting questions: "Why do so many people follow destructive bosses and corrupt politicians?" and "How can we survive them?" In fairness both to her and to those who have not as yet read this book, I will resist the temptation to reveal what her responses are. However, I hope the remarks which follow create sufficient interest in this book because it eminently deserves and richly rewards a careful reading.
She organizes her material within Four Parts: The Big Picture (Chapter 1) in which she explains why toxic leaders are so plentiful; Leaders, Leaders, Why Do We All Want Leaders? (Chapters 2-6) in which she examines psychological needs, angst and illusions (e.g. about life, death, and immortality), global instabilities, creation of potentially dangerous deities, and the urge for heroic men and women; How [and Why] We Create Willing Followers and Toxic Leaders (Chapters 7-9) in which she discusses various myths which help to explain the appeal of toxic leaders and the rejection of non-toxic leaders; and finally, Liberating Ourselves from the Allure of Toxic Leaders (Chapters 10-13) in which Lipman-Blumen proposes a number of mindsets, values, strategies, tactics, and initiatives which can -- at least in some instances -- protect mankind from toxic leaders or expedite their loss of power and even influence.
In this volume, Lipman-Blumen demonstrates all of the highly-developed skills of a world-class cultural anthropologist whose cutting-edge thinking about effective leadership and productive teamwork has earned for her the eminence she now enjoys.
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Format: Paperback
It is an interesting book to know how to associate with a toxic leader and how to change the situation which you face on. It is easy to read even for learners of English.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
First time, shame on them but the next time.... 16 Oct. 2004
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Those who have read Lipman-Blumen's previously published Connective Leadership and/or Hot Groups can correctly assume that she again offers brilliant insights, eloquently expressed, in her newest book. She responds to two especially interesting questions: "Why do so many people follow destructive bosses and corrupt politicians?" and "How can we survive them?" In fairness both to her and to those who have not as yet read this book, I will resist the temptation to reveal what her responses are. However, I hope the remarks which follow create sufficient interest in this book because it eminently deserves and richly rewards a careful reading.

She organizes her material within Four Parts: The Big Picture (Chapter 1) in which she explains why toxic leaders are so plentiful; Leaders, Leaders, Why Do We All Want Leaders? (Chapters 2-6) in which she examines psychological needs, angst and illusions (e.g. about life, death, and immortality), global instabilities, creation of potentially dangerous deities, and the urge for heroic men and women; How [and Why] We Create Willing Followers and Toxic Leaders (Chapters 7-9) in which she discusses various myths which help to explain the appeal of toxic leaders and the rejection of non-toxic leaders; and finally, Liberating Ourselves from the Allure of Toxic Leaders (Chapters 10-13) in which Lipman-Blumen proposes a number of mindsets, values, strategies, tactics, and initiatives which can -- at least in some instances -- protect mankind from toxic leaders or expedite their loss of power and even influence.

In this volume, Lipman-Blumen demonstrates all of the highly-developed skills of a world-class cultural anthropologist whose cutting-edge thinking about effective leadership and productive teamwork has earned for her the eminence she now enjoys. In my opinion, she has far greater and much more challenging ambitions in this book than she did in either of the two which preceded it. Consider this brief excerpt from the first chapter: Toxic leaders "first charm but then manipulate, mistreat, undermine, and ultimately leave their followers worse off than when they found them. Yet many of these followers hang on. I do not speak merely of the leader's immediate entourage -- the leader's close-in staff and advisors. I am speaking also of the larger mass of supporters (employees, constituents, volunteers) who only glimpse their toxic leader through a glass darkly -- perchance through a window of the executive suite or on the television screen. More surprisingly perhaps, even those groups charged with keeping leaders under the microscope and on the straight and narrow -- the media and boards of directors -- fall under they sway."

How to explain the "allure" of toxic leaders? How do they sustain, if not increase their domination of others? Even when exposed as toxic leaders, why do they continue to retain so many loyal followers? Realistically, to what extent (if any) can one individual or even a group remove such leaders from their positions of dominance? These and other questions have intrigued me for decades. Although I do not agree with all of Lipman-Blumen's opinions, I appreciate the rigor with which she has formulated those opinions.

To me, the book's most thought-provoking and thus most valuable material is provided in Part III, with the relatively weakest material following in Part IV. Lipman-Blumen is at her best when examining, indeed explaining how and why mankind creates toxic leaders as well as their willing followers. She is much less effective, in my opinion, when offering advice as to how to avoid or respond to the allure of such leaders. For example, is a coup or assassination the only effective solution to a tyrant? In a business context, what if a toxic leader is the owner/CEO of a small company? Realistically, is there any viable choice other than leaving? Lipman-Blumen's difficulties with the material in Part IV were probably inevitable...and have nothing to do with her intelligence, sensitivity, street smarts, and frame-of-reference. With all due respect to the "lessons" she reviews (please see pages 206-215) and the five strategies she then recommends (please see pages 238-249), I think those difficulties are explained, rather, by flaws in human nature which some have traced back to the Garden of Eden. Historically, those whom toxic leaders manipulate, mistreat, undermine, betray, and ultimately leave worse off than before are victims. Those who support toxic leaders are willing accomplices. Those who oppose toxic leaders are heroic. Those among them who are destroyed by toxic leaders are martyrs. For me, the most important question Lipman-Blumen poses in this book is hardly original: "Who are you?" For each reader, the answer will not be found in this book. However, a careful reading of it can assist with completing that immensely difficult journey of self-discovery.

I also highly recommend Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior co-authored by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HOW TOXIC LEADERS GAIN AND KEEP POWER, BUT CAN BE CHECKED. 18 April 2005
By Gerry Stern - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Toxic leaders leave their followers worse off than they found them. A few of the many other ways toxic leaders act are they: violate basic standards of human rights; feed followers illusions; stifle criticism; maliciously set constituents against one another. The book shows how these leaders win people over by playing on their fears and self-esteem, only to ultimately use their power against their own followers. The book explores, in depth, how people are drawn into accepting, even embracing toxic leaders, and how these leaders retain power. This is an enlightening probe into the psyche of people and how their culture, situation, deepest fears, and dysfunctional personalities, make them vulnerable to toxic leaders. The book also explores ways of dealing with these leaders: counsel them to change; undermine them; join with others to confront or overthrow them. The book closes with a chapter on how to be freed of toxic leaders, by facing up to our anxiety and the accompanying pain, as well as by bringing nontoxic leaders to the fore. The author's insights apply to leaders of all kinds, political and business. This brief review does no justice to the breadth and depth of this work.To read this book is to help become aware of, and armed against, toxic leaders of all types. Required reading for all who yearn and strive to live free of domineering, destructive leaders. Our highest recommendation.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Highly Recommended! 15 Jun. 2005
By Rolf Dobelli - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This intriguing, intellectual study of disastrous leadership offers a courageous interpretation of corporate scandal and political folly. Amoral leaders are not entirely to blame, Jean Lipman-Blumen argues. Rather, followers enable misguided leaders to rise to power and stay there. Her analysis applies psychological principles to Adolf Hitler's Germany and Jeff Skilling's Enron (not exactly parallel, but you get the idea) and concludes that toxic leaders' followers are willing victims who allowed misguided bosses to appeal to their basest instincts. While Lipman-Blumen's assertions are startling, she makes a compelling case written in dense but readable prose with intriguing detail. We suggest this book to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the relationship between leaders and their followers, particularly given the swath cut by today's toxic leaders.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Great Topic, But This Book is Too Tied to Current Events and Doesn't Plumb the Complexity of Leaders Enough 5 Jun. 2013
By ClioSmith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I appreciated the author's description of the basic characteristics of toxic leaders. However, the book is too long and brings in too many questionable examples of both positive and toxic leadership. I had to laugh when Blumen cited Bill Clinton--who is unquestionably a serial sexual predator--as a model of a positive kind of leadership. She would have done much better by focusing on the multiple sides of leaders, and the fact that very dark sides coexist with the light sides.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Sometimes It's Worse Than Smoke and Mirrors 28 Sept. 2004
By Neil Elgee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have been studying leadership for over a dozen years and this is by far and away the best book on the subject. It goes deeply beneath the hype and glorification and shows how we followers can be suckered by sociopaths and even be complicit in pushing benign con artists into a more toxic behavior level. Our culture is built with great tolerance of greed and manipulation at the top and we have to laboriously train ourselves to be on the lookout for toxic tendencies in our leaders by keeping an ironic and skeptical corner of our eye ever open. Lipman-Blumen's book explains this in sparkling language and good grace.
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