Gary Cheng


Toxic leadership costs organizations millions at a time in lost employees, lost customers, lost productivity, and even lost health. The literature shows toxic leadership extends beyond just leaders into an interconnected "toxic triangle" of destructive leaders, conducive environments, and susceptible followers. This study explored, "Can a free, online mindfulness-based stress reduction course reduce the negative impact of toxic leadership on the organization?" Ten volunteers self-identified as currently working under a toxic leader. The study used an explanatory sequential mixed methods design to measure resistance, compliance, and core self-evaluation along with interviews and journals. The results indicated mindfulness did reduce the negative impact: conducive environments were less conducive and susceptible followers were less susceptible. Additionally, mindfulness had influence on the entire toxic triangle and resulted in unique Toxic Triangle Influence Maps for each situation. Finally, family systems theory was found to be particularly useful for understanding leadership in a toxic triangle.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (MA) -- Organization Development; Leadership; Organizational behavior; Mindfulness (Psychology)

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graziadio Business School



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Rockwell, Sam