Toxic Leadership in the U.S. Military

George E. Reed

216 pages


September 2015


$36.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

September 2015


$16.50 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

September 2015


$16.50 Add to Cart

About the Book

Bad or toxic leadership, abusive supervision, and petty tyranny in organizations are perennial issues. But to date, there has been little effort to examine the scope and nature of bad leadership in the military. Tarnished rectifies that lack of attention by defining the problems and suggesting possible solutions appropriate to the military’s unique structure and situation.
Leadership is central to the identity of the U.S. military. Service academies and precommissioning processes have traditionally stressed the development of conscientious leaders of character. The services regularly publish doctrinal works and professional journal articles focusing on various aspects of leadership. Unsurprisingly, in most of those publications leadership is presented as a universally positive notion, a solution to problems, and something to be developed through an extensive and costly system of professional military education.
Leadership expert George E. Reed, however, focuses on individual experiences of toxic leadership at the organizational level, arguing that because toxic leadership has such a detrimental impact on the military organizational culture, additional remediation measures are needed. Reed also demonstrates how system dynamics and military culture themselves contribute to the problem. Most significant, the book provides cogent advice and insights to those suffering from toxic leaders, educators developing tomorrow’s military leaders, and military administrators working to repair the current system.

Author Bio

George E. Reed is dean of the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He served for twenty-seven years as an army officer including six years as the director of command and leadership studies at the U.S. Army War College. His writing has been published in journals such as Public Administration Review, Military Review, Leadership, Public Integrity, Armed Forces and Society, and Parameters.


"We must provide all leaders the tools to recognize and ultimately overcome toxic leadership. Tarnished is a great starting point."—Maj. Nathan K. Finney, Army Magazine

"Reed offers an essential discourse on what many may see as an unpleasant, but necessary reality of military culture. . . . Understanding and not tolerating toxic leadership is critical to stewarding the profession of arms."—COL Charles D. Allen, Parameters

“George Reed has written a penetrating study of the nature, persistence, and consequences of the phenomenon of ‘toxic leadership.’ This study goes well beyond academic analysis of toxic leadership and provides wise and practical suggestions for how best to deal with it from the perspective of superiors, peers, and subordinates.”—Martin Cook, Admiral James Bond Stockdale Chair of Professional Military Ethics at the U.S. Naval War College and coeditor of the Journal of Military Ethics

“A stunning work, detailing the problem [of toxic leadership] with data and anecdotes, but even more, it offers concise and helpful solutions at the institutional and individual level. An absolute must-read for army brass, policymakers, and the soldier suffering in a toxic environment.”—Georgia Sorenson, visiting research professor of leadership studies at Carey School of Law and inaugural chair and professor of transformational leadership at the U.S. Army War College

“The military knows a lot about good leadership. That makes sense because they have studied it for so long. In this remarkable and interesting book, however, George Reed recounts the lessons the military teaches us about bad leadership.”—Ronald E. Riggio, Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College and coeditor of Leader Interpersonal and Influence Skills: The Soft Skills of Leadership

Table of Contents

1. Nature and Scope of Toxic Leadership
2. Impact of Toxic Leadership
3. Creating and Sustaining Toxic Leaders
4. The Role of Narcicissm in Toxic Leadership
5. Toxic Leadership and Sexual Misconduct
6. Surviving a Toxic Leader
7. Toxic Coworkers
8. Mitigating Toxic Leadership

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