Actualized Leadership: The Asserter Style and the Dependent Culture

Actualized Leadership: The Asserter Style and the Dependent Culture

When we all think alike, no one thinks much at all.
Albert Einstein

A “no” uttered from the deepest conviction is better and greater than a “yes” uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.
Mahatma Gandhi

In our last BLOG we examined how the “Fear of Rejection” Leadership Shadow of Affirmers creates and reinforces a Dramatic culture.  The tragic irony of this dynamic for the Affirmer is that those with the highest need for approval from, and connection to, others actually create dysfunctional working environments where they become more likely to damage relationships.  This dysfunction occurs because of the Affirmer’s tendency to smooth over differences, avoid conflict, and delay making difficult decisions.  In turn, this leads to a higher probability of “paradoxical intent” – experiencing that which we fear the most.  In the case of Affirmers, that manifestation is separation from others.  Today’s entry will focus on the Asserter style, and how the “Fear of Betrayal” Leadership Shadow creates a Dependent team environment.  A Dependent culture leads to the most common set of challenges in organizations today which include being honest and authentic, independent, and saying “no” when necessary.

Before exploring the impact that Asserters have on others, I want to review the “Actualized Performance Cycle” framework that illustrates the connection between leader style and group performance.


Imagine a group dynamic where members rely excessively on their leader for support, guidance, and direction.  In order for the Dependent culture to be created and sustained, the Asserter leader actually colludes with the group by requiring constant updates, overturning the team’s decisions, and maintaining a very high degree of control.

The Asserter style is results-oriented and effective in the short-term, especially during a crisis.  However this style, and the fear and anxiety that it brings to others, is not sustainable.  The long-term impact is quite dysfunctional.  Under stress, the Asserter style can be dominating and autocratic, often shutting down attempts at open communication when it is needed most.  Although these leaders are often extremely candid and blunt, they do not appreciate or tolerate any dissension.  Members hesitate to speak out or challenge the leader, which often leads to poor decision-making.  The norm of this culture is to “follow the leader,” and as a result, the board decision-making dysfunction most common for a Dependent culture is Groupthink, which often leads to costly and even tragic (e.g., NASA’s decision to launch Challenger in 1986) consequences.

The Dependent Cycle: Couples

As discussed in my previous BLOG “My ‘F’ in Life,” the dysfunction of dependency is not relegated to organizations.  Couples, many couples in fact, often find themselves in this quandary.  An Asserter or “Pro-Dependent” (as opposed to a co-dependent), creates and sustains the “dependency” dynamic at home, too.  They go through life with a “trust-but-verify” mindset, grounded in skepticism, and they tragically create the conditions for what they fear the most to occur: betrayal.

Do you have a high need for power and control?  Do you tend to withhold trust and approach others with skepticism?  If so, you may very well be colluding in a Dependent climate, at home and at work.  What would become available to you if you were willing to let your guard down, be vulnerable with others, say that “you’re sorry,” and extend trust to a deserving soul?

What will your “‘F’ in Life” be if you don’t?


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