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Signs of Toxic Leadership Pt 12: Importance of Rules and Regulations

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this 12-part series about the warning signs of toxic leadership.

In each post, we reviewed one of the most common career-stalling roadblocks. We encouraged you to consider which one(s) might be a blind spot for you. After all, over 90% of all professionals encounters some variation of these roadblocks at some point in their career.

But don’t stop there. Take responsibility for your own blind spot(s) and focus on your own development. There is no one who has mastered all the skills needed to lead effectively. No one. It’s a continual and never-ending process, and the most effective leaders demonstrate self-awareness and openness to changing themselves.

Related posts:

Warning Signs of Toxic Leadership: Are You The Rebel?

Graphic Showing Leaning on the WallRules? What rules? You’d rather ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.

Maybe you don’t really see yourself as a rebel. That seems a little… extreme. But you suspect others may perceive you this way. Maybe they’re wrong about you. Nonetheless, if this is the perception, it affects how people interact with you.

Whether real or perceived, you may be seen as The Rebel who:

  • Doesn’t accept or doesn’t always abide by the established rules, norms or guidelines.

  • Pushes the envelope and tests the boundaries; tests the outer limits.

  • Questions authority at times and asks why things are the way they are.

  • Plays “devil’s advocate” and, at times, frustrates others who just want you to go along.

  • Fails to honor the operating principles and business-as-usual standards that have been set.

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

  • You encountered boundaries or restrictions that limited growth and improvement.

  • Personal values clashed with what you were being asked to do.

  • Challenging the accepted norms opened healthy and productive dialogue.

  • Going along with antiquated notions or standard practices no longer made sense.

  • You discerned that an exception met the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law.  

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 Rebel, something caused them to see you this way. For them, this is real.

What Can I Do if I'm a Boss Who Doesn't Follow the Rules?


Click the video above to get a fun, visual look at The Rebel. 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 Rebel, here are some immediate actions you can take to change others’ perceptions and exhibit these behaviors less frequently.

  1. Choose teams and work environments where your personal values are aligned.

  2. Operate inside the boundaries until such time that others agree on changing them.

  3. Be transparent and explain your reasons for deviating from accepted norms and practices.

  4. Be consistent in your choices and values so as not to seem untrustworthy.

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 Rebel. There’s an impact on people you work with.

There are also consequences for you, including:

  • The biggest risk you take when you allow Rebel behaviors to go unchecked is that people will assume the worst and mistrust you. They will portray you as someone who don’t accept authority but rebels against it just for the sake of making waves. They will miss out on the good you are trying to do as you bend the rules.

  • The more you operate outside the established practices, the easier it is for people to distance themselves from you and your ideas. You can lose your effectiveness by over-playing the role of devil’s advocate. Your questions and alternate ways of doing things may wear thin if people feel you are disrespecting the norms.

  • You also run the risk of being sidelined as a contrarian, someone who takes an opposing view just to poke at the majority or authority. Others may fear that associating with you will cause them to be seen in a negative light. They may side with the majority just to avoid siding with you.     

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 Career Roadblock & Others?

The Rebel 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”).

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.

You can learn about all the career roadblocks that lead to toxic leadership by following this blog series.   

Career roadblock