Parasitic Leadership

The word “leadership” is hard to define. It has hundreds of different definitions. But, the word “parasitic” is not hard to define. When a person is parasitic, he or she lives off another, depends on another for simple sustenance. This explains why persons who are parasite-like are so hard to get rid of. They benefit from feeding off people who support them; they benefit from having to bestow in exchange nothing of value.

It also explains why synonyms for parasite are words such as “leech” and “bloodsucker.” Parasites take what they can – no thought given to returning the favor. And once they sink their teeth in, they are, for good and obvious reasons, difficult, sometimes even impossible, to extract. For the purpose of this discussion, then, I define parasitic leadership as exercised by a person in a position of authority who feeds off of his or her followers without giving much if anything in exchange. Parasitic leadership is, moreover, clingy. It clings to the source of its authority – sometimes to the point of strangling it.

Parasitic leaders are remarkable to behold. Most striking is their capacity to hang on and dig in even after most of their hosts – their followers – recognize that they are malign. Followers of parasitic leaders typically find that they are stuck. They are stuck with leaders who refuse to give up, to let go, to allow themselves to be pulled out or peeled off even after it becomes blindingly obvious that they are widely disliked and distrusted. Even after it becomes blindingly obvious that many if not most can no longer stomach them. Even after it becomes blindingly obvious that they are miserably ineffective, or wretchedly unethical, or maybe both.

Left to their own devices, parasitic leaders feed off their followers –sucking them dry to the point of rendering them helpless. Which is why attention must be paid. Unless followers of parasitic leaders muster the moxie fiercely to resist them, they will be done in. Parasitical leaders are completely dependent on followers for life support. Without sufficient numbers of faithful followers parasitic leaders will wither and disappear. But, with sufficient numbers of feckless followers parasitic leaders will hold tight and remain in place till their dying day.     

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