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Signs of Toxic Leadership Pt 1: Overpromising & Underdelivering

In each installment of this 12-part series, we’ll examine behaviors that – if left unchecked – can inadvertently grow into full-blown signs of toxic leadership.

Make sure you don't have a blindspot when it comes to your soft skills or style. Take the free, self-paced course called The Essentials of Personal Effectiveness to build transferable skills and improve the quality of workplace interactions. 

A word of caution: for most people: These are total blind spots. You may not realize that a behavior set is a warning sign of toxic leadership. In fact, your success can be attributed to some of the same tendencies and behaviors.

What this means is that you will be tempted to dismiss what you read. You’ll have a strong reaction and denial to the career roadblock(s) that are most likely to trip you up. Pay attention to that visceral reaction, take a deep breath, and try to remain objective. Maybe there’s something here that shouldn’t be ignored or denied any longer.

Related posts:


Warning Signs of Toxic Leadership: Are You The Scrambler?

Missed another deadline. Late to another meeting. Lost track of time again. Multi-tasking and never quite finishing anything. Scrambling to keep all the plates spinning. Are you The Scrambler?

Warning Signs of Toxic LeadershipWhether real or perceived, you may be seen as The Scrambler who:

  • Is not detail-oriented and tends to make “absent minded” or careless mistakes.

  • Forgets verbal promises and casual commitments made.

  • Frequently scrambles at the last minute to complete tasks. May consistently miss deadlines.

  • Jumps from one task to another, often leaving one task unfinished before moving on.

  • Over-promises and under-delivers, often because you don’t say “no” to new requests.   

In the past, this has served you well or manifested as a positive when:

  • You get bored with one task and can re-energize yourself by shifting to something else.

  • Deadline approaches. You do some of your best work when pressure-prompted.

  • Details are less important than creativity or big-picture thinking.

  • People appreciate your “can do” attitude and willingness to take on new assignments.

  • New information or ideas emerge as you get closer to deadline.

Maybe this persona isn’t who you really are. It’s not who you intend to be. It feels unfair to be labeled this way. Nonetheless, if people see you as The Scrambler, something caused them to see you this way. For them, this is real.

What Can I Do if I Might Be The Scrambler?

Make sure you don't have a blindspot when it comes to your soft skills or style. Take the free, self-paced course called The Essentials of Personal Effectiveness to build transferable skills and improve the quality of workplace interactions. 

If you’re encountering a potential blind spot, feel stalled in your career, or are struggling with interpersonal skills in the workplace, you might benefit from working with a certified executive coach. Most senior-level executives have worked with a professional coach at some point in their career. Check out this Forbes article for more about the benefits of coaching.

Ultimately, YOU are responsible and YOU are in control of your choices about how to lead and how to interact with others in the workplace. Now that you’ve got awareness, it’s time to take action.

If you are, indeed, The Scrambler, here are some immediate actions you can take to change others’ perceptions and exhibit these behaviors less frequently.

  1. Document the commitments you make so you are more likely to fulfill them.

  2. Say “no” when your plate is full so you will not risk disappointing others.

  3. Prioritize and plan the work you do using a realistic assessment of time required.

  4. Consistently do what you say will do in order to build and protect your credibility.

If you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth it to make these changes, you should know that there is an impact to being perceived as The Scrambler. There’s an impact on people you work with.

There are also consequences for you, including:

  • The biggest risk you take when you allow Scrambler behaviors to go unchecked is that people may lose confidence in you. They may see you as less credible and even as untrustworthy.

  • Others’ perceptions can range widely. Some may be rolling their eyes every time you absent-mindedly miss a deadline or fail to deliver on a promise. Others may be excluding you from projects or opportunities. They feel it’s just too risky to rely on you.

  • The Scrambler’s manager is often forced into an uncomfortable role of micro-managing. Your boss may be frustrated with the reminders, check-ins and hand-holding you seem to require. Despite your abilities and talents, people are reacting to their perception that you just don’t care enough about your work. Every time they are personally affected by your scrambling, they have less and less faith in you to do your job.  

This choice is yours. Choosing to deny, ignore or embrace your Career Roadblock characteristics are all legitimate choices. You don’t have to change a thing.

On the other hand, if these behaviors or perceptions are preventing you from reaching your goals, it’s also a legitimate choice to modify what you’re doing.

Either way, put yourself in control. Be aware of the perception, your choices surrounding that perception,  and the impact of being perceived in this way.

How Can I Learn More About This Roadblock (and Others, Too)?
warning signs of toxic leadership

The Scrambler (check him out in the video above!) is one of 12 behavior sets that can become career roadblocks. When others are observing the issues with someone who is stuck and has these blind spots, they frequently use terms to describe these roadblocks (e.g. “control freak” or “dinosaur”).

Ultimately, YOU are responsible and YOU are in control of your choices about how to lead and how to interact with others in the workplace. Now that you’ve got awareness, it’s time to take action.