How to End the Toxicity of Disengaged Leadership through SPARK

How to End the Toxicity of Disengaged Leadership through SPARK

By Jeffrey A. Mangus

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”

– John C. Maxwell

I once worked in a retail drug store and had a manager who was a ventriloquist. He found it funny to throw his voice wherever I was in the store and harass me. How he did it was uncanny, and it was downright frightening to think about it today. I’d hear his voice in my ear as if he were looking over my shoulder, breathing down my neck, and criticizing every move. I’d look up, and he’d give me a cat-ate-the-canary smile from fifty feet away. It soon became so toxic that I left the job and never looked back. Without realizing it, the manager created a toxic atmosphere and completely disconnected from me and his staff.  Of course, this is only a small scenario, and one of many, but there are many disconnected leaders who, for whatever reason, don’t understand how their toxic actions affect their teams.

Research shows that when empathetic and connected leaders foster a positive environment for their teams, it drives exceptional team engagement and delivers outstanding company-wide results. The key to achieving this is a deep understanding of your leadership behavior and the ability to transform toxic or disconnected traits into positive team engagement.

What is Toxic Disconnected Leadership?

The most successful leaders lead with their emotions, set a good example, are actively involved, and don’t just rely on head logic. However, research also shows that many leaders are self-absorbed and disconnect from their teams, creating a corrosive and toxic workplace atmosphere. Many teams across industry sectors have reported that disengaged leaders have twice as many disengaged and disgruntled teams as engaged leaders.

There is a pragmatic correlation between leader and team engagement. So, to sum it up in layperson’s terms, disengaged leaders become role models for disengaging attitudes. Negativity breeds negativity, causing a toxic atmosphere that harms the company from within.

This lack of engagement among leaders has many unseen detrimental effects. Here are a few instances:

  • Even if rewarded at work, teams with disengaged leaders don’t become more engaged and often rebel.
  • Even if they get promoted, teams with unenthusiastic leaders still don’t get more engaged and remain stagnant and unproductive.
  • Unfortunately, providing a full bonus award does not increase engagement in teams under the leadership of disengaged leaders.

What Actions are Possible to End Toxicity and Disengagement?

The solution is crystal clear, and measuring its effectiveness is a breeze to implement.  Let me introduce you to the SPARK method of leadership to prevent toxicity in your company. The acronym SPARK summarizes leadership behavior:

·         Share the relevant facts. Stimulate.

·         Play up Your Strengths.

·         Ask for Input and Embrace Different Ideas.

·         Recognize by Identifying your Team’s Personal needs.

·         Keep to your Commitments and Promises.

Share the Relevant Facts. Stimulate.

Share your inspiring leadership, passion, and purpose with others. Being in the loop matters in team engagement. Your team is eager to stay updated on what is happening. If you have a new business direction or bad news, it is best to be upfront and keep your team in the loop. By confronting any negative issues or company rumors, you let your teams know you hear and value their input in the company’s direction.  

You can ignite team commitment by being open and honest with them. Transparency and candor are prevalent here as you treat your teams like adults, sharing what you know, especially with important factors that may affect your team’s livelihood. Through overcoming fear and being open about your feelings, teams embrace self-disclosure. This shows compassion, and you are a human who may not have all the answers, but you’re going to learn how to find a solution that works best for all. Sharing what you know keeps you open to ideas from your team. The people closest to the work are the experts on how to do it.

Play Up Your Strengths

As a leader of others, your best role is to play to your strengths and your team’s strengths. Using what you do best, you can help your team solve and improve issues. The key to recognizing strengths is a genuine human connection. That connection is engaging with your teams, offering casual conversation to learn about any issues that need to be addressed. Some leaders find it challenging to have casual talks with their staff, but never fake it. People can smell a phony from a mile away.

Use your compassion and empathy in most situations by putting yourself in your team’s shoes and thinking about how you’d react in a similar situation. This is where you build stronger empathy and compassion and further your leadership style.

Remember, empathy isn’t going soft or being a pushover. Playing to your strengths, you must still hold teams to high standards, make tough decisions, and be “the leader of others they respect. By being the ship’s captain, paying attention to and acknowledging other people’s strengths can inspire your team to solve problems and succeed.

Ask for Input and Embrace Different Ideas.

The word ask reminds us to ask questions, but listen to the answers. Asking for input and thanking your teams for their responses lets them know you appreciate their ideas. If we want to solve problems or change things, it’s better to gather ideas first to make the right decision. The idea is straightforward—treat your teams with respect, like adults. Asking questions first turns it into a two-way process and ensures you hear their answers and the person feels heard, strengthening their dedication to improving performance.

Recognize by Identifying your team’s Personal Needs.

People highly respect individuals who are kind and attentive to their needs. We have all been there. In the chaos of it all, it’s easy for a leader to unintentionally not show respect and give credit where it’s deserved.

Team recognition influences your team’s commitment to the cause. The size of recognition and rewards doesn’t matter, but their value to the team does. And that means understanding what each person on your team cares about. It’s your responsibility as a leader to respect and recognize good deeds and exemplary work among your team. Teams value your time with them, and showing empathy and that you care is a strategic form of respect and recognition.

 Keep to your Commitments and Promises.

There isn’t anything worse than someone telling you one thing and doing another. Even worse, someone promises something, but nothing ever happens. As a leader, you need to always adhere to your word and uphold any promises to your teams. Nothing can break trust more quickly than failing to keep commitments. If you ask your teams for ideas, there is an expectation that you will act on those ideas somehow. If you commit to follow up, be sure to do so—and then follow up with either good or bad answers. Be open and honest, which garners respect from your team.

Commitments are not just the responsibilities you have as a leader. Your company also makes commitments to your team by providing a workplace that delivers salary, benefits, and opportunities for growth. And this is vice versa. Teams must uphold their promises to show up, ideate, hit quotas, and stay true to the company’s overall target goals. It is a two-way street. If your company fails or breaks its promise, your team will have no incentive to uphold its promises and slow down, working hard to build and grow your company.  

Follow up on your team’s ideas and suggestions, and assess whether the idea jeopardizes your company. If so, be open and transparent, take action, deliver the news, and decide to move forward.


If you are a leader and have a book idea you would like to discuss, please get in touch and get on my schedule.

About Me

“My name is Jeffrey A. Mangus. I work with powerful executives, leaders, entrepreneurs, and new authors who have incredible, life-changing stories and want to put it all into writing their business books or memoirs. Authors I work with have beaten adversity down, survived gut-wrenching challenges, and overcome them to reach the top. I love rags-to-riches stories that show tenacity, grit, and determination. I partner with individuals committed to motivating others, going the extra mile, thinking innovatively, and leaving a lasting impression.

Jeffrey A. Mangus is a 5x #1 Amazon bestselling ghostwriter and author with thirty-five (35) award-winning and bestselling books to his credit. Jeffrey has written for several major publishers, including: Harper Collins Leadership, Harper Collins Focus, Rowman & Littlefield, Tantor, Blackstone, Highbridge Audio, and Audible.