List of Resources for Understanding and Addressing Abusive Leaders and Nonprofits


When we talk about adults in abusive relationships we are usually talking about romantic relationships. Sometimes people refer to abusive family relationships. Rarely do we refer to abusive relationships in our place of work. And even more rarely do we talk about the internal problems at nonprofits and other groups specifically focused on addressing abuse and exploitation in the wider world. This list includes general info and specific to work places and nonprofits.

There’s also some great articles showing how humble leaders can actually be more successful than egotistical and aggressive leaders! There is hope. And if someone says we need abusive leaders (usually referred to by euphemisms like “tough,” “aggressive,” or “charismatic”): it’s just not true.

Some of these resources specifically address abuse by men. But the lessons from these articles and videos can be applied in many situations. And one article is specifically about Toxic Work Environments in the Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice World: even in spaces run by and for women, people can be abusive.

My personal theory is that everyone is capable of abuse and mistreatment. But people who have power have more of an opportunity to act on those tendencies: that includes men, white people, people with money, and people in positions of authority. But again anyone can have those tendencies and act on them, in different ways.

Please, share your own ideas and resources in the comment section. Make use of these resources as much as it’s helpful: understanding what you went through can be extremely affirming and healing. And also, make sure to do things that bring you joy, get outside, spend time with people who treat you well, and eat good food. Don’t

    1. Why Would Progressive Nonprofit Organizations Need a Union?:
    2. Toxic Work Environments in the Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice World: Includes great bulleted list of common problems at non profits. And “we expect feminists to know better” comment:
    3. Disgruntled Feminist Workers of the World Unite!: Post inspired by the above post: working conditions in women’s healthcare – capitalism is the problem. Interesting comment at the bottom re the challenges of starting your own justice oriented, worker led org:
    4. Narcissism in the Workplace by Sam Grier – author’s personal experience dealing with an egotistical, abusive, manipulative narcissistic person at work. Upper management knew the abuser was a problem but instead of dealing with it they just transffered him to another department. That’s similar to how the Catholic Church dealt with abusive priests. Podcast interview:  Book: 
    5. The Best Leaders Are Humble Leaders: evidence from the Harvard Business Review that humble leaders actually get better results
    6. Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve by Jim Collins. Article in Harvard Business Review about study showing leaders who have humility are much better at running businesses but tend to get less attention.“:
    7. Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? By Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic; Quote: “In my view, the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women. This is consistent with the finding that leaderless groups have a natural tendency to elect self-centered, overconfident and narcissistic individuals as leaders, and that these personality characteristics are not equally common in men and women…. In sum, there is no denying that women’s path to leadership positions is paved with many barriers including a very thick glass ceiling. But a much bigger problem is the lack of career obstacles for incompetent men, and the fact that we tend to equate leadership with the very psychological features that make the average man a more inept leader than the average woman. The result is a pathological system that rewards men for their incompetence while punishing women for their competence, to everybody’s  detriment.”
    8. “If Humble People Make the Best Leaders, Why Do We Fall for Charismatic Narcissists?”:
    9. VIDEO: Even After Criticism, Men Think Highly of Themselves (~1.5 minutes long):
    10. The Revolution Begins at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities – Article: Book: 
    11. The Network / La Red – survivor led organization to end partner abuse: 
    12. The Dark Side of Leadership – “Few nonprofits can thrive or even survive without strong leadership. Yet what happens when forceful leaders cross the line and become bellicose bullies or just plain bad bosses? Sadly, the nonprofit sector is not immune from the harm that destructive leaders leave in their wakes. Destructive leaders are those whose actions cause catastrophic effects on everything from staff morale to workplace safety.” — “Costly Turnover: StackHands also reports that 75% of people voluntarily leaving aren’t quitting their jobs, they are quitting their bosses!”
    13. Gaslighting Revisited: A Closer Look at This Manipulation Tactic by Dr George Simon – extremely helpful article that also talks about what abusers do when gaslighting doesn’t work on a particular person. Often gaslighters reach out to others and undermine that person:
    14. 10 Things I’ve Learned About Gaslighting As An Abuse Tactic by Seah Emma Fett – one of the best articles about this topic with a very concise definition – “Gaslighting is the attempt of one person to overwrite another person’s reality. There’s a good chance that you now know more about gaslighting than most therapists.”
    15. Abolition Culture: Moving Beyond Disposability in the Movement:
    16. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: the Non-Profit Industrial Complex by Incite! Women of Color Against Violence (Editor), Nada Elia (Co-Editor):
    17. Abolishing the ally industrial complex:

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