Behind the Scenes: How Takers in Leadership Positions Shape Our Workplaces

Casey Fenton

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September 15, 2023

Picture this: your workload is piling up, your boss is constantly looming, taking credit and showing little consideration for anyone else. Sound familiar? You could be navigating the tricky waters of having a "taker" in a leadership position.

But what does it mean to have a Taker as a leader?

Let’s delve into the definition and consequences of having a taker at the helm and their influence on organizational culture and employee engagement. As we navigate these waters, we'll also explore some coping strategies and ways to potentially transform the culture in your organization. 

Stay until the end, because we'll reveal a powerful technique that just might be the game-changer you've been looking for.

Defining the "Taker" in Leadership

Have you ever heard of the term "taker" in the context of leadership? The understanding of this concept can be a compass in the wilderness of your career, guiding you around potential pitfalls in your work environment. Let's delve into the character sketch of this unique leadership persona.

What Is a Taker?

Peering into the world of organizational psychology, we find a character we all know, albeit perhaps unwittingly – the "Taker."

This term, given life by organizational psychologist Adam Grant, describes those who tend to seize more than they offer in their relationships and interactions. In their pursuit of success, they prioritize their own needs, with a less-than-stellar regard for the wellbeing or achievements of others.

Takers in Leadership Positions

As we take this character from the theoretical world into the practical world of work, the true impact of a taker becomes apparent. Imagine these individuals in positions of power, making decisions that affect teams, departments, or even entire organizations.

These takers in leadership positions might have a penchant for hoarding resources, a tendency to lean towards decisions that serve their own interests, and an uncanny ability to overlook the efforts of their teams. These actions have far-reaching consequences, impacting not only their immediate teams but the whole organization.

The Subtle Signs of a Taker Leader

While it would be convenient if takers wore a badge declaring their status, the reality is more nuanced. Recognizing a taker leader can be akin to a game of chess - it requires keen observation and strategic understanding.

A taker might wrap themselves in charm and charisma, expertly deflecting the focus from their self-centered actions. But pay close attention, and you'll notice subtle signs - a reluctance to offer assistance, a consistent failure to acknowledge others' contributions, and a knack for stealing the limelight time and again.

We now have our taker sketched out and standing in the limelight. But how does their presence in leadership affect the workplace's larger dynamics? 

The Impact of Taker Leaders on Organizational Culture

When takers sit in the driver's seat, their actions and decisions echo throughout the entire company. This influence significantly shapes the organizational culture and the engagement of employees.

Erosion of Trust

Trust — it's the invisible glue that holds teams together, promoting healthy collaboration and fostering a sense of community. However, when takers steer the ship, this trust can quickly erode.

Takers chip away at the foundations of trust by placing their interests on a pedestal, far above the needs of their team. This eroding trust breeds low morale, stifling the spirit of cooperation that's essential for a healthy working environment.

Consequently, an unhealthy competitive environment may flourish, where everyone is out for themselves, reminiscent of a game of survival.

Decline in Employee Engagement

Further diving into the impacts, a noticeable casualty is often employee engagement. Taker leaders, with their self-focused approach, can make employees feel like mere cogs in a machine, undervalued and underappreciated.

This feeling of being overlooked can breed a sense of disenchantment. Employees, feeling detached, might disengage from their work, affecting overall productivity and stifling the seeds of innovation that may have otherwise flourished in a more nurturing environment.

Impacts on the Bottom Line

At the end of the day, a company's success is often reflected in its bottom line.

Interestingly, the impacts of a taker's leadership style don't remain confined to team dynamics or employee engagement. They extend further, subtly affecting the organization's economic health.

Over time, a taker leader's behavior can trickle down, negatively impacting the company's financial performance. This could be due to increased turnover rates — as employees seek more fulfilling opportunities elsewhere, poor team performance — a likely result of the decline in employee engagement, and even a drop in customer satisfaction — a possible repercussion of a discontented and disengaged workforce.

Now, you may be wondering: "Okay, so how do we manage this? Are we doomed under a taker's rule?" Not quite. Let’s explore strategies to deal with taker leaders and transform the workplace into a more positive, engaging, and productive environment. 

Strategies to Deal with Taker Leaders

Facing a taker in leadership might feel like standing against a storm, but remember, even the fiercest gale eventually calms down. If you're navigating through the stormy seas of a taker-led environment, don't despair! Here, we'll outline some strategies that can help weather this storm, manage such situations, and potentially transform your organization's culture.

Foster a Giver Culture

An antidote to a taker culture? Cultivate a culture that values giving over taking. This strategy involves promoting, recognizing, and rewarding behaviors that reflect the spirit of generosity.

Encourage acts like helping colleagues, sharing knowledge, and fostering collaboration. You can create a work environment where everyone benefits and the taker’s influence can diminish by giving visibility and value to these behaviors.

Remember, a single flower can't usher in the spring, but a field of blossoms can certainly make it bloom.

Encourage Transparency

Transparency is the best policy to keep takers in check. Openness in sharing information, whether about decisions made at the helm, changes in policies, or general updates, can curtail a taker's self-serving maneuvers.

Create avenues for feedback from all employees, and conduct regular performance reviews that focus on both individual contributions and team cooperation. You can eliminate the dark corners where a taker might otherwise thrive when you shine a light on everything.

Emphasize Collective Success

A culture that solely celebrates individual achievements can inadvertently fuel a taker’s mentality. To counter this, promote a vision of success that is collective and inclusive.

Collective success stories can overshadow the taker's influence and highlight the power of teamwork. After all, a cohesive team pulling together towards a shared goal can accomplish far more than a single person striving for individual recognition.

Now, while these strategies can certainly help, you might still be left wondering: "Is there something more? Something that can serve as a secret weapon against taker leadership?" Let’s unlock this secret together.

Equity Compensation: A Strategy to Align Interests

Let's unveil the secret weapon we've been alluding to — equity compensation. This powerful strategy has the potential to not only curb the negative influence of taker leaders but also enhance employee engagement, serving as a shared platform for mutual growth.

What is Equity Compensation?

So, what exactly is this powerful tool? Equity compensation is a form of non-cash payment that provides employees with a slice of ownership in the organization.

This may materialize in various forms such as stock options, restricted stock, performance shares, or other equity vehicles. It's like having a piece of the pie — a stake in the organization's overall success, not just a paycheck for your individual performance.

Aligning Interests

The beauty of equity compensation lies in its ability to align the interests of leaders and employees, fostering a sense of shared destiny. Having a tangible stake in the organization can make employees feel more than just workers — they become partners in the company's journey towards success. 

It's like being on a boat where everyone's rowing in unison; the shared ownership encourages employees to give their best, knowing that they directly benefit from the organization's success.

Equity Compensation and Takers

What about our taker leaders?

Interestingly, equity compensation can offer a subtle yet effective shift in their perspective. By tying a portion of their financial success to the organization's performance, it nudges them to consider the broader health of the company.

After all, if the organization does well, their equity holdings grow in value. It incentivizes them to ensure that the entire team — or better yet, the entire organization — is performing well, as their personal financial success is intrinsically tied to it.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the waters of a taker-led organization can feel like sailing against the wind, but remember, even the strongest winds eventually change direction. Taker leaders, while presenting significant challenges, are not the architects of an organization's destiny — you, along with your colleagues, are.

Although takers might take center stage, you can subtly alter the script. Through strategic measures like fostering a giving culture, we can start to tip the scales. We can foster an environment where takers might feel compelled to give back by celebrating those who help others, share knowledge, and collaborate.

Adding transparency into this mix can keep everyone, including takers, accountable. It encourages open dialogue and gives all employees a clearer understanding of the organization's decisions, effectively taking the wind out of a taker's sails.

Emphasizing collective success over individual achievements helps knit a tightly woven tapestry of teamwork. It's a reminder that we're all in this together, working towards a common goal, not competing in a solo race.

Lastly, we have our secret weapon — equity compensation. Granting employees a tangible stake in the organization's success creates an environment where everyone is rowing the boat in the same direction.

Even takers are encouraged to take a step back and consider the broader success of the organization. After all, their financial prosperity is tied to the company's performance, nudging them to ensure that the whole organization, not just themselves, is thriving.

In conclusion, while takers in leadership positions can be challenging, they don't define an organization's destiny. Through strategic efforts, we can transform the workplace into a more positive, engaging environment where everyone thrives — including the takers themselves.

Remember, it's not the presence of the wind but the set of the sail that determines our direction. Sail on, my friends!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Casey Fenton

Founder, Upstock & Couchsurfing, AI and Equity Innovator

Casey Fenton, the founder of Upstock & Couchsurfing and an AI and equity innovator, has revolutionized how we perceive and implement equity in the workplace. His foresight in creating platforms that not only connect people but also align their interests towards communal and corporate prosperity has established him as a pivotal figure in technology and community building. Casey speaks worldwide on topics including ownership mindset, worker equity, With Upstock and Couchsurfing, he has demonstrated an unparalleled expertise in harnessing technology for the betterment of community interaction and organizational benefits.

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