With the floodgates of sexual harassment opening, people are aghast that Hollywood, the media and Congress have allowed these behaviors to flourish. In many cases, employers reinforced the conduct with repeat payouts to victims, such as in the Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly and Congressman Conyers cases. Strangely, now-retired Congressman Conyers’ lawyers claimed that the harassment payouts were a “nothing burger,” alleging that at least half of the members of Congress and the Senate have made similar offenses and payments to victims. Really?

Companies constantly look the other way when it comes to inappropriate behaviors by their leaders. Now that sexual harassment cases are being exposed, there are real unchecked problems that need to be assessed and addressed. In fact, according to the 2011 presentation white paper “Leadership is Broken,” studies over decades have consistently shown that 50 to 75 percent of leaders are ineffective. As long as bottom-line and strategic objectives are met, most companies do not take the time to look at how results are achieved.

When it comes to sexual harassment and other bad behaviors of leaders, two common-sense steps are needed to end the madness: Respect needs to be shown for all employees and stakeholders, and there has to be accountability. It is important to assess leaders to determine whether they have overly aggressive profiles and are prone to inappropriate behaviors. By assessing leaders, executive coaches and leadership development experts can help these individuals learn tactics and skills to neutralize and manage their inherent risks better so that they are able to refrain from disrespectful or unacceptable behaviors. Providing development gives those leaders a chance to clean up their act before being held accountable or, potentially, being terminated. While accountability is essential, it is best to give your leaders a fresh start and an opportunity to develop.

For self-awareness, assessing one’s personality characteristics, risk factors for derailment and intrinsic motivators can provide the clarity needed to begin developmental work and behavior changes. Frequently, a leader’s “moving against” or aggressive risk factors, combined with low empathy, can be a toxic mix. Without adding clear measures to assess these over-the-top behaviors, they typically continue to run unchecked.

There are methods to identify, develop and hold leaders accountable to stamp out sexual harassment, bullying and other abusive behaviors from leaders and other prominent members of organizations. Here are three steps to significantly reduce or eliminate these behaviors.

  1. First, require that leaders and those in power show respect to all stakeholders at all times – no exceptions. Then, hold them each accountable.
  2. Assess all leaders with validated personality measures to determine their propensities or risk factors for bad or inappropriate behaviors as well as for their strengths and motivation. Next, offer them personalized coaching and leadership development to learn tactics to keep their own risks and potential non-respectful tendencies in check. Again, hold them accountable.
  3. Hire and promote more leaders who do not have such overly aggressive profiles or the moving against risk profiles. For example, more than 70 percent of leaders today have risks or tendencies as “egotists.” According to the book “Fresh Insights to END the Glass Ceiling,” research has revealed that male leaders have statistically significant higher risks as “egotists, rule breakers and upstagers.” These are clearly moving against or overly aggressive profiles. Promoting more women can help decrease this high percentage, because, statistically, fewer women than men have this trait.

Preventing sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation behaviors in organizations is doable. However, it will take courage, compassion, diligence and investments in talent development by senior leadership.

Want to learn more? Our Midwinter Month of Measurement is leading up to our next virtual conference, TICE Virtual Conference: Metrics Matter, a Focus on Strategic Planning, Analytics and Alignment. Learn more and register for the free event here.