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From Ineffectiveness to Destruction: A Qualitative Study on the Meaning of Negative Leadership

From Ineffectiveness to Destruction: A Qualitative Study on the Meaning of Negative Leadership


This article aims at analyzing the content and structure of managers' conceptions of negative leadership. Using semi-structured interviews, 42 managers were asked about their conceptions of negative leadership, its antecedents and consequences. Results show that the concept of negative leadership is associated with eight behavioural categories: insincere, despotic, exploitative, restrictive, failed, laissez-faire, and active- and passive-avoiding leadership. Negative leadership was causally attributed to the environment of the leader, especially the followers, the immediate working field, as well as organizational processes, structures, and resources were seen as potential sources for negative leadership. The main factors regarded as its consequences included negative follower feelings and attitudes, destructive follower behaviour, and devastating organizational results. An analysis of the relationship between the leadership categories revealed two underlying dimensions of human- versus task-orientation and passive versus active behaviour. Limitations of the present approach, implications for future research and organizational practice are discussed.
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