The Chaotic Leader: How to Survive It


Have you ever worked with a leader who was always inviting chaos or a boss who constantly had to create drama?

The most effective leaders work to create an environment that will stimulate, motivate and develop people—who in turn will bring their best to work.

But many otherwise qualified bosses and leaders share a need to create chaotic cultures that keep everyone in a heightened state of anxiety.

They may believe that calm cultures mean a lack of activity or purpose—that stress and chaos lead to greater drive and energy.

Research may tell us that people are better motivated by accomplishment than stress, and that they can accomplish much more when they are at ease in a peaceful and secure environment, but what can you do if your workplace is governed by stress, chaos and drama?

You may not be able to change the culture, but here are some steps you can take to help yourself:

Know yourself. Before you can be an advocate for the processes that help you work most effectively, you have to know what they are. Think about specifics—everything from the noise level to workloads to the way project details are communicated.

Draw a line in the sand. Determine your bottom line in regard to what you can and can’t handle. Everyone needs to be able to tolerate some degree of stress and drama, but everyone has limits. When you know where your boundaries lie, you know when you have to speak up—or even walk.

Resist micromanagement. Except for leaders who are actually incompetent,  most workplace chaos stems from micromanagement. It usually originates with tremendous pressure to produce results, so if you want to shield yourself and advocate for an alternate work style, stay focused on results. There’s no more compelling argument you can make than “this works better.

Don’t let yourself be squelched. Leaders who tend to dismiss ideas with a “but” create not only chaos but also confusion and apathy. Eventually the bad feelings grow into dissent among employees and disregard for the leader. Learn to keep speaking up and speaking out, and find solutions to every “but,” one at a time.

Look for the best. Chaotic leaders invite us to see the cup as half empty instead of half full. Negative leadership leads to more negativity. Difficult as it may be, work to stay on the side of positivity. Try to always find something good to point out and something positive to contribute.

Be a role model. Lead by example and set a standard in light of unreasonable expectations. Maintain healthy boundaries for yourself: “I accept phone calls and emails only up to 7pm.” The more you give, the higher the expectation becomes. Step off the vicious cycle; create a balanced life for yourself and kept to it.

Acknowledge your own worth. Chaotic leaders tend to share a common trait: they’re quick to point out mistakes and shortcomings but slow to acknowledge even extraordinary effort or accomplishment. It’s not only devaluing but it’s the worst kind of leadership. Counteract it by acknowledging your own work and bringing attention to your (and your teammates’) contributions.

A chaotic culture is a disruptive culture—and not in a good way. Do what you have to do to survive a chaotic leader. Above all, don’t allow yourself to believe that it’s an acceptable way to live or lead.

Lead From Within: As with any challenge, do what you have to do. Rise above the dysfunction of existing leadership and be an example of the leadership that can work.



N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

buy now


Additional Reading you might enjoy:


Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Simon Harvey

    25. Oct, 2016

    As always Lolly you are right on point. Seems amazing really that so few leaders are still trying to grasp the idea of self-awareness and leading by example. Vulnerability is for me a word that needs including in any leadership manual, and knowing the power of opening up to being vulnerable is like opening a present that will offer gratitude for a long time.

    Always thinking of you and often point people in your direction when leading from within comes up. Keep up the great posts.
    Warmest, Simon

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      29. Oct, 2016


      I have missed you. I love your insightful wisdom when you say, Vulnerability is for me a word that needs including in any leadership manual
      I agree wholeheartedly.


      Reply to this comment
  2. Karen Openshaw

    29. Oct, 2016

    This is so good. It is exhausting working for this kind of leader. It more than doubles your own workload – it does for me anyway. I find that I ‘manage up’ and try to make a positive difference to the ethos. The positive is that it helps you refine further your future choices. I would always check out the environment before making a commitment. Thanks for your wisdom Lolly

    Reply to this comment
  3. OO

    29. Oct, 2016

    As usual you are ALWAYS thinking, THINKING THROUGH problems, instead of hiding them.

    Keep thinking, Lolly.


    Reply to this comment
  4. Sanjay Leslie Tatpati

    31. Oct, 2016

    Hello :

    Very insightful and true. It is a fact that we see these chaotic types in most orgs. Hardly few of them lead by example, at times its frustrating but we need to move on…Thanks for a good post.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Run 2

    15. Mar, 2017

    Thanks for sharing something really worthy which may help in saving life.

    Reply to this comment
  6. the impossible game

    18. Oct, 2017

    You are amazing with this post. Thanks for posting such information

    Reply to this comment
  7. Henry Jones

    11. Oct, 2019

    The information regarding chaotic leaders here is very informative mate. Keep up the good work. 😀

    Reply to this comment
  8. islamic books

    06. Aug, 2020

    Your blogs are outstanding and you always comes up with new topics and ideas. More power to you and keep updating us with informative articles.

    Reply to this comment

Leave a Reply