Are You A Codependent Leader?

By: Anne Dranitsaris, Ph.D.
October 2, 2018    4 min read

Codependence in any relationship broadly refers to dysfunctional behavioral patterns that are a result of a person’s underlying fears of rejection, loss, abandonment, and low self-worth.

While it is common to hear about it in personal relationships and addiction, you rarely hear leaders referred to in this way. However, many common leadership issues are a direct result of a codependent relationships.

Codependent leaders can be very successful at achieving their business objectives, but not their full potential. While they work steadily to achieve their goals and those of the business, part of their attention and energy is going into caretaking, supporting or compensating for employee’s inadequacies. While it may not look like it, these leaders make people decisions based on their emotions and are easily thrown off course by those of their employees’, creating business and team problems as a result.

A codependent leader is difficult to spot, especially when they are in a senior role or a successful entrepreneur. At first glance, it looks as though problems are a result of employees failing to perform. But looking at the whole picture — the lack of performance management systems and accountability practices; ineffective communication; and the dynamic between leader and employee — you start to see what the actual issues are. You can see why the leader’s behavior is causing the dysfunction and poor performance as well as what needs to happen.

While there are many codependent leadership behaviors, the following are examples of what codependent leaders look like from the dominant and the submissive positions. 

   Submissive Codependent Leaders

Excessive cooperation & inclusion in the decision-making process so no one feels left out.

Failure to give performance expectations and excessively permissive with employees.

Inflate achievements and praise excessively, thereby lowering the performance bar.

Fail to deal with poor performance, avoiding the discussion despite the consequences with other team members.

Inability to say ‘No” whenever an employee asks for something out of a fear of being disliked or abandoned.

   Dominant Codependent Leaders

Foster dependency in employees by assuming to know what is best and not trusting their people.

Avoid training and development for themselves, believing that others need help, not them.

Overpower others to get their own way, even losing their temper or becoming demeaning when others disagree with them.

Hire incompetent employees as they make emotional decisions about people based on how they make them feel.

Take credit for the achievement of employees and unable to share success with their team.

Changing Codependent Behavior

Codependent leaders recognize there is a problem but believe that the issue is the other person. The first step is to get them to focus on what they need to be successful and their behaviors and reasoning that is leading to the problems. Despite their gap in development, codependent leaders can change their behavior.

Long-standing adaptive patterns of behavior can be changed, and new, productive responses and patterns can be put in their place. Contact us to find out how.

Caliber Leadership Systems is a Toronto & San Diego based firm specializing in behavioural change and leadership development. The co-founders have written over a hundred books on personality development, behavioural change and achieving potential including Who Are You Meant to Be?. Their new book, So, You Think You Can Lead?, was released on April 17, 2019. Get Your Copy Today! Visit our programs page to learn more about our leadership development & coaching programs or contact for a free consultation.