Organisations Are Terrible Places!

Johann Coetzee wrote a chapter in the recently launched book “Leadership Perspectives from the Front Line” called “The Leadership Lament”. It starts like this:

“Organisations are terrible places. They are terrible because well-intentioned people assemble there with good motives, and then become blemished by the inescapable toxicity organisations succeed in generating.

If you swear at people for whatever reason, then you are not a leader – you are a savage! If you instil fear into people, notably those who are forced to endure such abuse, then you are a tyrant. If you exploit your false immunity because of perceived seniority, then you are actually a weakling, hiding behind corporate draping’s. If you do not convert all your education, training and development in management and leadership, and the applied behavioural science into fair labour practice, then you have not grown at all – you have only become more senior.

There is a significant difference between becoming a leader, leading, and leadership. Many apparently suitable candidates become leaders. But there is no evidence of their leadership, or any effective leading. They become incumbents by appointment and aspiration, and have even studied the subject of leadership comprehensively. They emerge from business schools with MBA qualifications and return there to attend executive development programmes (EDPs). Yet many remain the reprehensible personalities and characters they essentially are.

The spirit and culture within an organisation is not determined by leaders, their leading, or their general leadership effect, but by personality and character, manifested in the nature and effect of the corporate soul, being the guiding set of commandments which regulate conscience and conduct.

Yes, leading, leadership and leader are more about character than charisma, more about intrinsic virtue than values capable of being listed and recited, and much more than the semantics that (sheepishly) depict codes of conduct, credos, visions and missions.

Modern people are no more led. They will join, co-operate and collaborate with convincing direction and logic, presented by individuals who are authentic in purpose, endeavour, and inspiring effect by virtue of credibility. And they will participate spontaneously only where common courtesy and basic human decency are evident.”


Harsh, direct and honest words from a man that has coached more than 28 000 managers over the years, many of whom worked in the top 100 organisations in SA.

Despite Coetzee’s efforts and many others, I believe with my whole heart that whatever we as a society have done up until now to eradicate toxic leadership has not worked, or it is simply not working fast enough. For decades now society has tried the leadership development route. But it seems toxic leadership still breeds faster than authentic leadership. We certainly see this in politics and more and more in corporate as pressure piles on and leadership actions become more visible.

We simply cannot continue doing the same things over and over again expecting different results. I think it is time – like never before – to step up our game and more actively, constructively promote authentic leadership and actively rid society of toxic leadership. This is my passion.

Enters Leadership Activist… Me. I am NOT the friend of ordinary employees and the enemy of top management. I am NOT the enemy of government leaders and the friend of ordinary citizens. I want to be the friend of authentic leadership/leaders and the enemy of toxic leadership, definitely toxic leaders. If you believe in this vision, for the good of your organization and the future of our country, then we can take hands and make this work.

We need a mature, independent and passionate party with some social or public influence that can speed up society’s urgent need for change in leadership behaviour from toxic to authentic. If we don’t do this, what is the alternative? Everywhere we look there is a collective downward spiral – economically, politically, socially and even in sport. While many factors may be contributing to this, underperforming, incompetent toxic leadership is surely at the heart of it.

We hope to make a difference; a real difference by taking this head on; something that should have been done a long time ago.

If you are struggling with toxic leadership or a toxic leader inside your organisation, email me direct and let’s see if we can resolve it together.

This link with my message tells more about how I propose we do this: Press Here




Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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