Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Amy Ihlan

Second Advisor

Sharon Radd


Organizational Leadership, Strategic Management


Destructive leadership is prevalent in organizations today and it produces harmful outcomes to both individuals and organizations. Destructive leadership is more than destructive behaviors exhibited by those in positions of authority within an organization; destructive leadership is a cocreational process involving a destructive leader, susceptible followers, and a conducive environment, or what is commonly referred to in the literature as the toxic triangle of destructive leadership. Institutions of public higher education seem an unlikely atmosphere in which destructive leadership would manifest and there is minimal research on destructive leadership in institutions of public higher education. This qualitative research gathered information from the perspective of followers who have experienced destructive leadership in public higher education in the United States. This information was collected in personal interviews with ten participants who self-identified as having experienced destructive leadership in institutions of public higher education in the United States. The findings from this qualitative study confirmed that followers were subjected to a wide range of harmful destructive leader behaviors, followers were operating in environments conducive to destructive leadership, followers reacted to the destructive leadership by trying to minimize its negative impact on employees and the institution, and followers were mostly harmed, both personally and professionally, by destructive leadership. Additionally, the findings provide evidence to support the toxic triangle framework and to support the argument that destructive leadership is a complex, socially-constructed process involving a destructive leader, a conducive environment and susceptible followers.