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Signs of Toxic Leadership Pt 7: How to Be a Better Team Player at Work

As you’re reading through this 12-part series on the warning signs of toxic leadership that limits individual and team effectiveness, you've probably been tempted to assign personas to people you know.

But are you assigning yourself a persona? Are you being candid with yourself, naming and claiming a persona that you can work on?

lone If not, you’re missing an opportunity to “check yourself before you wreck yourself.” These behaviors can spin out of control and become career roadblocks. They can become toxic to your team. You may have a blind spot and, while ignorance is bliss, it’s better for the long-term to know what you need to work on.

For you, it may all start with learning how to be a better team player at work.

Related posts:

Warning Signs of Toxic Leadership: Are You The Lone Wolf?

You know there’s one person you can always count on. It’s you. Yourself.

That’s why you prefer to work alone. It’s why you don’t see a lot of value in team-building activities, collaborative efforts, committees, and group meetings. You avoid these whenever possible.

Graphic Shown Type of Toxic Leadership - The Lone WolfWhether real or perceived, you may be seen as The Lone Wolf who:

  • Prefers to work alone and avoids working with a team.

  • Doesn’t give your full effort to the success of the team.

  • Would sooner distance yourself from the team than work through problems with the team.

  • Is not interested in team building, team celebrations or collaborative efforts, or being a team player at work in general.

  • Hasn’t figured out how to leverage the strengths of a team to build capacity and success.

In the past, the Lone Wolf mentality has served you well or manifested as a positive when:

  • You feel you can do things faster and better without being encumbered by others.

  • Have been measured on your own performance and abilities as an individual contributor.

  • You’ve worked in an environment where members of a team compete with each other.

  • Some members of the team have been unreliable and you’ve been burdened with extra work.

  • You prefer to do things your way without consulting others.

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

What Can I Do if I Might Be The Lone Wolf?

warning signs of toxic leadership

The video above is a nice visualization of The Lone Wolf. 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.

So, how to be a leader when you are shy or the do-it-all-yourself type? If you are, indeed, The Lone Wolf, here are some immediate actions you can take to change others’ perceptions and exhibit these behaviors less frequently.

  1. Work on crafting and sharing a team vision that rallies the group to pull together.

  2. Acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers or abilities needed to excel.

  3. Trust others to do their part and hold them accountable for work they’ve been assigned.

  4. Invest in the team. Give it your best effort. Celebrate shared success and don’t bail out too early.

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 Lone Wolf. There’s an impact on people you work with.

There are also consequences for you, including:

  • The biggest risk you take when you allow Lone Wolf behaviors to go unchecked is that you'll be accused of not being a team player. It’s the old maxim “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” in play. They will respond to you as an outlier at best and an enemy at worst. Either compromises your effectiveness.  

  • By opting out of team meetings, gatherings and collaboration, you’re boxing yourself in. You can’t be seen as a leader unless you work with others. This, alone, prevents others from seeing in you a next-level role. What’s more, by not being a part of team dialogue, your opinions and input aren’t getting air time. You aren’t a part of decisions that may impact the work you do.

  • You also run the risk of being ostracized. When the time comes and you do need team support, you’re less likely to get it than if you’d be engaged with the team all along.      

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)?

Are you a team player at work? The Lone Wolf 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