The High Cost of Our Collective Tolerance: The Urgency for Systemic Change in Leadership Behaviour

Executive Leadership

In the intricate tapestry of human society, leadership is a cornerstone that shapes the trajectory of our shared journey. Be it in the realm of business or government, leaders are entrusted with the crucial task of guiding the ship, making decisions that have far-reaching implications. They are expected to exemplify the values and principles of their organisations, setting a standard that others aspire to. But what happens when these leaders fall short? More crucially, what impact does our collective tolerance of their poor behaviour have on our workplace culture and even society as a whole?

Once again, recent events captured in the media have cast a harsh light on the issue of poor behaviour by some leaders. This is not about finger pointing; we are seeing it from corporate malfeasance to political misconduct, it has become increasingly evident that some individuals in positions of power are not always acting in the best interests of those they serve. This begs the question: why do we tolerate such behaviour from our leaders?


The Culture of Acceptance

One reason could be that we may feel a sense of powerlessness or apathy among the general populace. Many people feel that they have no control over the actions of their leaders, and as a result, they resign themselves to the idea that there is nothing they can do to hold them accountable. However, this is far from the truth. In fact, as employees, and as members of our communities and society, we have a profound responsibility to ensure that our leaders are held to the highest standards of conduct.

Another reason for the acceptance of poor behaviour from leaders could be a lack of transparency and accountability within our institutions. When leaders are not held accountable for their actions, it sends a message that such behaviour is permissible. This can foster a culture of impunity, wherein leaders feel emboldened to act without fear of repercussion.


The Broken System

The consequences of this acceptance of poor leadership behaviour are far-reaching. In business, it can lead to a toxic work culture, where unethical behaviour is tolerated and even rewarded. In government, it can erode trust in our institutions and undermine the very fabric of our democracy. You only have to review the Edelmen Trust Barometer, to see that our government has a lot of work to still do in the area of ‘trust’. It is crucial that we recognise the impact that poor leadership behaviour has on our work environments and society, and take real steps to address it.

The system that is supposed to hold leaders accountable is often ineffective or non-existent. In many cases, leaders are able to avoid consequences for their actions by exploiting loopholes or using their power and influence to manipulate the system. This lack of accountability can lead to a culture of impunity, where leaders feel they can get away with anything.


What can we as individuals do?

As individuals, we have a responsibility to hold our leaders accountable for their actions. This means speaking out against poor behaviour when we see it, and not being afraid to challenge those in positions of power. Also not dismissing the person’s behaviour. We also have a responsibility to hold ourselves to a high standard of behaviour, and not to excuse or tolerate unprofessional or unethical actions from our leaders.

We must also speak out against poor behaviour and demand transparency and accountability within our institutions. Furthermore, we can support organisations that work to hold leaders accountable, going through internal escalation processes and systems, or using advocacy groups (e.g. whistleblower) and watchdog organisations. Move away from leaving always leaving it to others because they could be doing the same. We all have a part to play.


We have a choice

Remember, we do actually have a choice. We know that the acceptance of poor behaviour from leaders is not only detrimental to our workplaces and society at large, but it is also a dereliction of our duty as members of that society. Our silence and lack of action aids in creating broken systems and environments where poor leaders can hide and even flourish within.

As individuals, we can hold our leaders accountable for their actions and challenge the culture of acceptance that surrounds them. It is only then can we begin to create a system where leaders are held to a higher standard of behaviour.

We can work together to create workplaces and a society in which our leaders are held accountable for their actions and have leaders we can depend on and trust. Isn’t that what we all want and deserve?

If you found this article of interest or would like to discuss the work we are doing here at Unearth, then let’s book a conversation.

You may also find the Edelman Trust Barometer Reports of interest and can be found at:

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