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Have you ever faced a situation where a toxic leader was driving your organization to new heights, only to leave others in their wake? Or perhaps that leader treats you or your team harshly in front of others just to see what you’re made of?

I have worked for a few executives throughout my career who thought this management style helped leaders perform at their highest level. Week after week, I would attend corporate meetings only to be criticized in front of hundreds of fellow colleagues.

If you have experienced something similar, your gut is wrenching because it brings back terrible memories and emotions. What’s worse is when the toxicity of that leadership style has a trickle-effect on your team.

Here are six tips for taking the bullet for your team when the pressure’s on.

  1. Know your ‘Why’ – Remember, you were placed in this position because you were chosen to lead. Taking the bullets for your team can be an essential part of leading courageously. More importantly, when you know why you lead you’re able to clear the fog that comes from frustration and self-doubt so you can stay the course and make effective decisions.
  2. Define your bright lines – I’ve seen how a lack of integrity and courage can threaten any organization where people let ‘leaders be leaders’ without holding them accountable for their actions. Bright Lines allow you to have a strong sense of where you stand at the forefront and serve as your ‘True North’ amidst intense controversy.
  3. Assess the damage – We all know toxic leadership can make us feel belittled and intensely criticized. And although these feelings are valid, you’ll need to reframe and assess the tangible issues the leader is causing and how they negatively impact the organization’s performance. For instance, they could drive strong results but consequently, require unreasonable work hours. This short-sighted approach could result in some of your key players burning out and not sustainably producing their best work — ultimately taking time and increasing costs.
  4. Model action (take the bullet) – Servant leaders are change agents who don’t hesitate confronting issues when push comes to shove. As you consider this step, you’ll want to carefully consider how you approach driving effective change while still demonstrating your commitment as a team player. Confrontation may sting at first, but when done well it establishes a win-win solution and the end results are very much worthwhile.
  5. Reframe and inspire – Restate the objective for you and your team. Be clear about what’s expected and use this as an opportunity to inspire and encourage innovation. Remove the emotion, deliver the message with intensity but do it in a way that would inspire new ideas and is not demeaning or belittling.
  6. Stay gracious and strong – Don’t get stuck in complacency and self-survival mode. When you take the bullet for your team, you’ll become a stronger leader and have more respect for yourself because you’re not afraid to make the tough calls even at your own expense. This type of leadership mentality is one that is gracious and strong and will help you rise above unexpected challenges.

At the end of the day, you and your team will work better together and create stronger results when there is a sense of trust and mutual respect across your high-performing team. If something isn’t said and the toxicity persists, you’ll risk your top talent leaving for another organization that demonstrates those attributes.

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