5 Types of Toxic Leaders for Creatives

Part of success as a creative is identifying what in your environment is an external challenge and then seeing what internally are the things you can change to address it. Here are five types of leaders that sap creativity, accompanied by five strategies to move things in the positive for you. The overall gist of the suggestions show ways to moderate your expectations to the reality of your surroundings. One thing that is true: working for an “unhealthy” leader is truly toxic. But, what we see as toxic may not be the whole picture. If you are the leader or manager, this list may be useful in seeing a perspective you might not be getting elsewhere.

Stoic: This leader may be consistent, but nothing ever seems to move him. You might as well work for a fence post as creating for a fence post might be better than this guy. In a setting without any passion, it is truly hard to create your best work.

Strategy: If your work performance is professionally approved, then you have to get over being approved emotionally. Ending this expectation will end your disappointment in not seeing an emotional response to your work.

Myopic: Vision is food for the creative. To be told a future direction and given a picture of it sets you free, so if your leader is myopic you are in danger. Details matter, but this is not about details. It is about the urgent of today, not the greater purposes and concepts that keeps creatives energized.

Strategy: Understand that the vision and purpose may not be lost, just that you think differently. You look at the end while your boss sees the start or where you at. Learn to see through his or her eyes.

Narcissistic: Its all about what makes this guy’s ego propped up. He loves himself, and when he sees you, he looks through the filter of his ego. You do not exist. Don’t count on empathy for you, and don’t count on your acts of empathy being noticed.

Strategy: Good leaders are ego-driven a lot of the times. This does not outright mean they don’t care. You have to learn to feel valued by other means than this type of leader is capable of delivering. Seek a mentor for guidance, and give up seeking empathy from this guy.

Volcano: Four good days with peace in the office are ended with the untimely blow ups. Anything sets him off, but you can never guess what really will. Watch out. This guy keeps the office on edge, putting on a wet blanket to creation.

Strategy: Instead of seeing how to calm, appease, or figure out this behavior the best thing is to simply focus on yourself and your reaction. You cannot change him. But, you can assess whether or not these outbursts are simply in the backdrop or causing you harm. If they are harming you, move on. If not, learn to manage you.

Political: This type decides to only decide when the decisions matter not. So, he will never have your back, only his. Taking risks does not compute under this leader. Planned experimentation is part of innovation. This guy will have none of that unless it works for him politically.

Strategy: Creatives do not like status quo, but it is not a bad thing to have leaders in an organization who guard and protect things such as process as well as themselves. If applied well, keeping things protected can be good for all. Learn to pick your battles and be cautious. Are your issues conscience or preference? Conscience issues may warrant a fight.

In summary, what might appear to be toxic may simply be a challenge to adjust internally to what you see. Embracing that challenge may be the best way to succeed. However, when leaders are not healthy, you sometimes have to remove yourself. This is where things are truly toxic. Remember it is human to live within limitations. And, while it is spiritual to think we can transcend our limits, removing ourselves when we can’t be our best might be the most spiritual thing we can do.

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

15 comments

  1. There’s also the kind of leader that doesn’t understand the creative process, who thinks that there’s a one size fits all approach to productivity, and if you’re not following his approach, you’re probably irresponsible, rebellious, or lazy.

    1. Called the “Copycat” (No. 6) Who rather not innovate sine it is seen as inefficient. He says “let’s not reinvent the wheel” to every idea. That work?

      None on my list understand the creative process. That’s the point. So, how do we get a strategy to work with this guy then?

      1. Oh man – I’ve heard that phrase so many times (Let’s not reinvent the wheel).  Maybe this guy can be won over when we take time – not on the clock – to build a better wheel and then show him how it’s better. 
        Or maybe after he says that, you sneak out to the parking lot and swap out his Michelin tires for old Model T style wheels.

  2. There’s also the kind of leader that doesn’t understand the creative process, who thinks that there’s a one size fits all approach to productivity, and if you’re not following his approach, you’re probably irresponsible, rebellious, or lazy.

    1. Called the “Copycat” (No. 6) Who rather not innovate sine it is seen as inefficient. He says “let’s not reinvent the wheel” to every idea. That work?
      None on my list understand the creative process. That’s the point. So, how do we get a strategy to work with this guy then?

      1. Oh man – I’ve heard that phrase so many times (Let’s not reinvent the wheel).  Maybe this guy can be won over when we take time – not on the clock – to build a better wheel and then show him how it’s better. 
        Or maybe after he says that, you sneak out to the parking lot and swap out his Michelin tires for old Model T style wheels.

  3. There’s also the kind of leader that doesn’t understand the creative process, who thinks that there’s a one size fits all approach to productivity, and if you’re not following his approach, you’re probably irresponsible, rebellious, or lazy.

    1. Called the “Copycat” (No. 6) Who rather not innovate sine it is seen as inefficient. He says “let’s not reinvent the wheel” to every idea. That work?

      None on my list understand the creative process. That’s the point. So, how do we get a strategy to work with this guy then?

      1. Oh man – I’ve heard that phrase so many times (Let’s not reinvent the wheel).  Maybe this guy can be won over when we take time – not on the clock – to build a better wheel and then show him how it’s better. 
        Or maybe after he says that, you sneak out to the parking lot and swap out his Michelin tires for old Model T style wheels.

  4. There’s also the kind of leader that doesn’t understand the creative process, who thinks that there’s a one size fits all approach to productivity, and if you’re not following his approach, you’re probably irresponsible, rebellious, or lazy.

    1. Called the “Copycat” (No. 6) Who rather not innovate sine it is seen as inefficient. He says “let’s not reinvent the wheel” to every idea. That work?

      None on my list understand the creative process. That’s the point. So, how do we get a strategy to work with this guy then?

      1. Oh man – I’ve heard that phrase so many times (Let’s not reinvent the wheel).  Maybe this guy can be won over when we take time – not on the clock – to build a better wheel and then show him how it’s better. 
        Or maybe after he says that, you sneak out to the parking lot and swap out his Michelin tires for old Model T style wheels.

  5. There’s also the kind of leader that doesn’t understand the creative process, who thinks that there’s a one size fits all approach to productivity, and if you’re not following his approach, you’re probably irresponsible, rebellious, or lazy.

    1. Called the “Copycat” (No. 6) Who rather not innovate sine it is seen as inefficient. He says “let’s not reinvent the wheel” to every idea. That work?

      None on my list understand the creative process. That’s the point. So, how do we get a strategy to work with this guy then?

      1. Oh man – I’ve heard that phrase so many times (Let’s not reinvent the wheel).  Maybe this guy can be won over when we take time – not on the clock – to build a better wheel and then show him how it’s better. 
        Or maybe after he says that, you sneak out to the parking lot and swap out his Michelin tires for old Model T style wheels.

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