Bad Leadership Is Hazardous to Your Health Thesis

Pages: 5 (1551 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Leadership

Bad leadership is hazardous to your health. Stories of bad leadership abound in the business press. Criminal leaders such as Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling can bring down their companies (Smith, 2006). Bankers exercising poor risk management can cripple the global economy. But poor leadership can have far worse impacts. From the incompetent construction foreman or Joseph Stalin, by negligence or by direct action, poor leaders can have an adverse impact on the health and well-being of their followers. This paper will argue the case that in addition to ruining your career and your finances, bad leadership is also hazardous to your health. Thousands of workers die each in year in preventable accidents on the job. Soldiers die for hubris-driven madmen. Bad leadership has a high price, sometimes the ultimate one.

Counter Arguments

Bad leadership is as easy to define as beauty -- tough to describe precisely but we know it when we see it. The damage from bad leadership is not so easy to see. Those who do not believe that bad leadership is a health hazard will point out that Stalin is an extreme example. This is true. The same can be said of Pol Pot, Hitler and any number of other poor leaders whose policies resulted in the deaths of millions and the suffering of hundreds of millions more. My opponents will argue that great leaders also kill and maim by the millions. Nobody disputes the leadership skills of Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan. However, the deeds of great leaders are irrelevant to the discussion of bad leaders. Bad leaders harm people in entirely different ways.

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My opponents will also argue that leadership alone cannot cause harm. Employees can bring about injury to themselves. Events where the employee is culpable are irrelevant to the abilities, or lack thereof, of the organization's leader. Moreover, causality in workplace health and safety is difficult to prove, especially in the case of workplace illness (Hadler, 1984). Correlation is easier to understand, but is not a replacement for proven causality. It is impossible to determine with certainty, therefore, that bad leadership results in a greater injury rate on the job.

TOPIC: Thesis on Bad Leadership Is Hazardous to Your Health. Assignment

It could be argued that leaders are not solely responsible for workplace safety. Often the leaders have done their job, but the employees have ignored the procedures and policies in place, resulting in injury or death. However, such claims are focused only on the time frame immediately prior to the accident. Much of what leaders do takes place before the accident. They create the culture in which the employees operate. They write the policies and design the enforcement mechanisms. When necessary, they enforce the policies such that employees are unwilling to violate them. If employees are failing to adhere to the safety policies that have been produced, that is also a failure on the part of leadership.

My Arguments

Poor leadership is hazardous to your health. The case is made time and time again. National leaders and corporate leaders alike increase the risk to the health and well-being of their followers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009), "injuries and illnesses among private industry employers occurred at a rate of 3.9 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers." The Occupational Safety and Health Administration logs cases that result in serious injury or death. Poor leadership is a theme repeated throughout their reports. The examples are shocking. Safety standards are not met on job sites, resulting in a wide range of worker deaths. One of the roles of leadership is to enforce safety standards and promote a culture where safety takes top priority, especially in workplaces with numerous physical hazards.

Another area where poor leadership lets its employees down is on the issue of training. The Worker's Compensation Board of Nova Scotia (2009) points to several key elements where leadership impacts on worker training. Leaders must be committed to safety training. When they are, the company is. Leaders champion safety programs. They promote them, and this sets the tone for the entire organization.

Leaders assign the resources needed to adhere to safety requirements (Ibid). These resources can come in a number of different forms. Training for safety requires that leadership devote time and instructional capacity to safety issues. The training program must receive adequate support from senior management not only in order to have the funding required to sustain its existence, but also for the training program to be taken seriously throughout the organization. If the leader does not make workplace safety a priority, accident rates are higher.

Time and money are two other key resources. Safety standards can slip when workers are faced with a deadline or a budget crunch. It is the role of leadership to either provide the time and money required to maintain safety standards, or to ensure that their subordinates understand that safety standards are sacrosanct.

Leaders also act in an enforcement capacity. It is the role of management to ensure that the safety procedures on the books are being used on the job. They keep records of violations and mete out punishment to transgressors. Leaders also have the task of documenting audits and maintenance, ensuring that each are conducted within the defined timeframes. These supervisory practices are essential to reducing workplace injury (Zohar, 2002), and the lack thereof is evidence of bad leadership.

Leaders are also responsible for initiating safety strategies. They are in a position by virtue of their knowledge to identify areas of safety deficiency. They keep the records and work throughout the organization. Leaders who spearhead safety initiatives can prevent injuries before they happen.

In addition to a wide range of potential physical problems associated with poor leadership, there is also the mental and emotional toll that bad leadership takes. A study in Canada indicated that one in three workers was in a workplace that put them at psychological risk. These unsafe environments lack leadership, support, or recognition. The employees are at risk because their leaders do not respect their need for work-life balance or because they have to high a workload. Effective leaders recognize these problems and address them, avoiding psychological problems (Bendall, 2009).

Indeed, psychological problems have been recognized by the National Institute for Occupational Safety as the leading occupational health problem (Sauter, Murphy & Hurrell, 1990). The triggers are not dissimilar to those of physical health problems. Bad leaders have difficulty understanding others. Either they cannot see or they do not care about the problems their policies cause. This leaves their employees vulnerable to psychological distress and its attendant health problems. Stress and breakdown can occur when employees are placed under undue pressure. A more effective leader designs his or her organization in such a manner that no employee is under too much pressure; each has a role commensurate his or her capabilities. Indeed, in some jurisdictions, legislation obliges management to monitor for psychological hazards in the workplace, indicating the role that leadership plays in preventing such negative outcomes (Cotton, 2008).


Poor leadership is evidence in a number of ways that directly impact workplace health and safety. Safety standards either do not exist or are not enforced. The organizational culture does not support safety initiatives. Front-line managers and workers are under pressure to meet strict deadlines and cost targets, and cut corners to do so. Training programs are deficient or non-existent. Hiring programs do not emphasize the need for qualified, safety-oriented people. These are all signs of a bad leader, and all will result in a higher rate of on-the-job injury.

Bad leaders also have a negative psychological impact on their workers. Because they are poor communicators and do not understand the needs of their workers, bad leaders fail to provide adequate resources for their workers. They are too demanding, leading to stress and all of the health problems… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Bad Leadership Is Hazardous to Your Health.  (2009, November 5).  Retrieved November 26, 2021, from

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"Bad Leadership Is Hazardous to Your Health."  November 5, 2009.  Accessed November 26, 2021.