How Do Destructive Leaders Attract Followers?

user Annette Templeton

Examining the conformers and colluders who make destructive leadership possible.



  • The toxic triangle posits that destructive leadership is only possible with followers, who fall into two categories: conformers and colluders.
  • Followers low on self-esteem demonstrate a greater vulnerability to conforming and colluding.
  • Eager to work their way up the corporate ladder, employees likely perceive that colluding produces more reward than speaking out.
  • Disrupting this cycle is not easy when followers and their leaders are entrenched in an environment that mutually serves one another’s needs.


Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and former CEO of Theranos, the blood-testing company, is currently awaiting sentencing after being found guilty in January of bilking the company’s investors. Holmes offered a multi-day testimony in November 2021, two months after the trial began, but her day in court was the end of a long, tragic saga of narcissism, deception, and destructive leadership.

After raising more than $700 million…

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