Summary of The Allure of Toxic Leaders

Why We Follow Destructive Bosses And Corrupt Politicians - and How We Can Survive Them

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The Allure of Toxic Leaders book summary
Are dictatorial bosses the only alternative to chaos and mess? Toxic leaders promise solutions, but only if they rule.


8 Overall

8 Applicability

9 Innovation

7 Style


This intriguing, intellectual study of disastrous leadership offers a courageous interpretation of corporate scandal and political folly. Amoral leaders are not entirely to blame, Jean Lipman-Blumen argues. Rather, followers enable misguided leaders to rise to power and stay there. Her analysis applies psychological principles to Adolf Hitler’s Germany and Jeff Skilling’s Enron (not exactly parallel, but you get the idea) and concludes that toxic leaders’ followers are willing victims who allowed misguided bosses to appeal to their basest instincts. While Lipman-Blumen’s assertions are startling, she makes a compelling case written in dense but readable prose with intriguing detail. suggests this book to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the relationship between leaders and their followers, particularly given the swath cut by today’s toxic leaders.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What makes a leader toxic;
  • Why followers shoulder much of the blame for toxic leaders;
  • What psychologically motivates followers; and
  • How to shed toxic leaders and recruit nontoxic leaders.


What Makes Destructive Leaders So Strong?
From Adolf Hitler to Enron’s Jeff Skilling, from China’s Chairman Mao to Sunbeam’s Al Dunlap, the history of politics and enterprise is filled with toxic leaders. These destructive, power-hungry people make poor decisions meant to aggrandize themselves...
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About the Author

Jean Lipman-Blumen is a professor of public policy and organizational behavior at Claremont Graduate University in California. She is a co-founding director of the Institute for Advanced Studies and served as a special adviser to President Jimmy Carter. Her previous books include The Competitive Edge and Hot Groups.

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By the same author

  • Book

    Jean Lipman-Blumen and Harold J. Leavitt

    Oxford UP, 1999


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