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Poor leaders feed on illusory insecurity

21 July 2022
Volume 31 · Issue 14


Sam Foster, Chief Nurse, Oxford University Hospitals, reflects on how destructive leadership generates uncertainly in the workplace and foments fear in teams, leading to acceptance of a toxic work culture

Although I believe that it is important to consider the evidence base of what great leadership looks like, I think that it is equally important to learn from the negative impact of poor leadership. A powerful quote that made me reflect on workplace culture recently came from Robson (2017). She cited US author Tim Ferriss, who stated that, as a teenager, he was advised: ‘You are the average of the five people you most associate with.’

This rule suggests that the five people you spend the most time with shape who you are. It borrows from the law of averages, which is the theory that the result of any given situation will be the average of all outcomes. We interact with many people, but the few closest to us have the greatest impact on our way of thinking and our decisions. I reflected on past cultures and considered the present. Considering the amount of time we spend at work, our collective behaviour, and its impact on colleagues, was interesting to reflect upon.

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