Susceptible Followers

A second component of the Toxic Triangle is susceptible followers. As we suggested earlier, destructive leadership does not occur in a vacuum; it occurs in situations where followers are susceptible to influence. For example, when followers are passive or submissive, their inaction can contribute to unfettered leadership and unintentionally support destructive leaders. Leaders and followers are interrelated in the leadership process. How followers act is strongly associated with how leaders lead.

According to Padilla et al, the types of followers who are susceptible to destructive leadership can be divided into two groups: conformers and colluders. As implied by the name, conformers comply with destructive leaders, in an effort to minimize the consequences of not going along. They conform because they lack a clearly defined self-concept and fear what will happen if they do not follow. Underlying their desire to conform could be unmet basic needs, negative self-evaluations, and immaturity. A good example of this involves members of a high school Tier 1 AAA Hockey team. They are on the team in hopes of getting exposure to recruiters for college or minor league hockey teams. Because the coach decides which team members will play in the games, the players put up with the coach’s insults and public berating, as well as the coach’s attempts to pit them against one another to create conflict, which many times turns physical. While the players’ parents know of the coach’s behavior, they, too, remain silent in order not to jeopardize their sons’ chances of playing.

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