A short piece from the Harvard Business Review pointing out the actions of those leading at the top ripple out with implications far beyond what those leaders might imagine. The author highlights three behaviors in particular that reflect toxic cultures: scattered priorities, unhealthy rivalries and unproductive conflict.

Whether presiding over the entire company, a function, a region, or a business unit, the people at the top of an organization have a disproportionate level of influence over those they lead. Those further down in the organization look to their leaders for cues on what’s acceptable (and what isn’t), and the team’s habits — both good and bad — will be emulated. Having your actions play out publicly, as if on a Jumbotron, is a huge responsibility, and unfortunately too many teams don’t take this responsibility as seriously as they should. The consequences can be farther reaching than most leadership teams realize.

Effective leadership teams have clearly defined charters. They narrowly focus on the most strategic priorities and don’t detour from them. They stick to well-articulated decision-making processes. And they intentionally transfer their disciplined focus down through the organization.

When conflict and information are mishandled among a leadership team, the rest of the organization follows suit. The RHR study showed that 87% of high-performing leadership teams handled conflict effectively and were transparent and open with information, and 82% exchanged constructive feedback with each other.

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