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Ignored = Condoned

Ignored behavior is condoned behavior. If you are going to ignore inappropriate behavior then you might as well just write a policy to say it is ok. This applies to everyone in the organization including the people in the most senior leadership positions.

“It is not what you preach, it is what you tolerate.”

Leif Babin

You can talk about inclusion, psychological safety and core values all you want, but if you tolerate demeaning and bullying behaviors, if people get shot down as soon as they speak up and if people in leadership positions do not practice the core values then your preaching and your posters are a waste of time.

“Over time, the value of a uniform, a brand or a platform is defined by the worst people who wear it or use it.”

Seth Godin

If you tolerate people who are lazy, continually produce subpar work or are abrasive or abusive with your staff, customers or the community you serve, that will become your brand regardless of what it says on your website or in your advertising.

If you ignore toxic behaviours by people in formal leadership positions then you will breed more toxic bosses in the future. I used to refer to toxic leadership, but I am now of the opinion that if you are toxic, you are a boss and not a leader.

I believe there are a number of reasons why we have these issues in organizations including:

    • We often fail to identify behaviours that are acceptable, above the line, and “like us” and those that are unacceptable, below the line and “not like us”.
    • We often fail to teach new supervisors how to establish and communicate standards and expectations and how to have courageous conversations to address inappropriate behaviours with people who were very recently their peers.
    • Toxic bosses are rewarded and allowed to promote like-minded people sending the message that being a bully is the way to get ahead in this organization.

So, as a leader, you need to step back and ask yourself two questions:

    1. What am I as a leader ignoring, condoning and tolerating?
    2. What are we as an organization ignoring, condoning and tolerating?

Once you have a list of behaviours then start taking action to address them. The culture and future of your team, work group, division and organization is at stake and your people are relying on you.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey.

Brian Willis

Register yourself, and your team for the Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop to get everyone on the same page regarding leadership and culture. If you are interested in hosting a live Dare to Be Great workshop reach out to me at