Betrayal Trauma Theory

Implications for Higher Education Leadership in Africa
Living reference work entry
Part of the Global Education Systems book series (GES)


The chapter emanates from the Chancellor’s address that I presented on the fifth of March 2019 at the University of South Africa. Betrayal Trauma Theory (BTT) was used as a lens in understanding toxic leadership in work spaces. BTT focuses on the ways in which toxic behavior of leaders may violate or negatively affect trust and well-being of employees. Toxic leadership can bring negative consequences to employees’ attitudes toward their leaders and organizations’ well-being, and work behaviors. Employees are the less powerful individuals in the leader-employee relationship. They are characterized by a power differential and constrained in what they can do in response to unfavorable treatments they receive from their bosses.


Toxic leadership Dysfunctional Employee Organization Betrayal trauma theory Trust Workplace 


  1. Aubrey, D. W. (2012). The effect of toxic leadership. Philadelphia: U.S. Army War College.Google Scholar
  2. Bhana, A. (2020). Building ethical leadership through training and development approach at a higher education institution in South Africa. Problems and Perspectives in Management, 18(1), 405–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bolden, R. (2009). African leadership: Surfacing new understandings through leadership development. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 9(1), 69–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Caillier, J. G. (2020). Testing the influence of autocratic leadership, democratic leadership, and public service motivation on citizen ratings of an agency Head’s performance. Public Performance & Management Review, 1–24.
  5. Conger, J. A. (1990). The dark side of leadership. Organizational Dynamics 19(2), 44–55.Google Scholar
  6. Davis, D. R., & Maldonado, C. (2015). Shattering the glass ceiling: The leadership development of African American women in higher education. Advancing Women in Leadership, 35, 48–64.Google Scholar
  7. Dinesh, K. V. (2019). Good, bad and ugly: Exploring the Machiavellian power dynamics of leadership in medical education. Journal of Advances in Medical Education & Professionalism, 7(1), 42–46.Google Scholar
  8. Drucker, P. F., & Ito, M. (2005). Toxic leadership: A conceptual framework. Graduate School of Management, Claremont Graduate University, Encyclopedia of Executive Governance, 2005.Google Scholar
  9. Freyd, J. J., Deprince, A. P., & Gleaves, D. H. (2007). The state of betrayal trauma theory: Reply to McNally – Conceptual issues, and future directions. Memory, 15(3), 295–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gabriel, Y. (2013). Leadership and Organizations, UK: Royal Holloway, University of London, 257–272.Google Scholar
  11. Ghanem, K. A., & Castelli, P. A. (2019). Accountability and moral competence promote ethical leadership. The Journal of Values-Based Leadership, 12(1), Chapter 11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jacques-Garvey, (2009). Philosophy and opinions of marcus garvey. The Journal of Pan African Studies 2009 eBook. New York: Amy Jacques-Garvey.Google Scholar
  13. Johnson, N. S. (2018). A phenomenological analysis of military Personnel’s experiences of toxic leadership (Walden Dissertations and Doctoral Studies). Walden University: Scholar Works. Part of the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Commons.
  14. Khan, M. A., Ismail, F. B., Hussain, A., & Alghazali, B. (2020, January–March). The interplay of leadership styles, innovative work behavior, organizational culture, and organizational citizenship behavior. Sage Open, 1–16.
  15. Kuada, J. (2010). Culture and leadership in Africa: A conceptual model and research agenda. African Journal of Economic and Management Studies, 1(1), 9–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Labhane, P. K. (2020). Leadership skills and team building. Studies in Indian Place Names, 40(42), 304–331.Google Scholar
  17. Morris, J. A. Jr. (2019). Understanding coping strategies and behaviors of employees affected by toxic leadership (Walden Dissertations and Doctoral Studies). Walden University: Scholar Works. Part of the business administration, management, and operations commons, management sciences and quantitative methods commons, and the organizational behavior and theory commons.
  18. Mumford, T. V., Campion, M. A., & Morgeson, F. P. (2007). The leadership skills Strataplex: Leadership skill requirements across organizational levels. The Leadership Quarterly, 18, 154–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Nanjundeswaraswamy, T. S., & Swamy, D. R. (2014). Leadership styles. Advances in Management, 7(2), 57–62.Google Scholar
  20. Padilla, A., Hogan, R., & Kaiser, R. B. (2007). The toxic triangle: Destructive leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments. The Leadership Quarterly, 18, 176–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Paulus, D., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The dark triad of Personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36(6), 556–563.Google Scholar
  22. Reed, G. E. (2004). Toxic leadership. Military Review Journal, 84(4), 67–71.Google Scholar
  23. Savas, O. (2019). Impact of dysfunctional leadership on organisational performance. Global Journal of Management and Business Research: A Administration and Management, 19(1), 36–41.Google Scholar
  24. Schilling, J. (2009). From ineffectiveness to destruction: A qualitative study on the meaning of negative leadership. Aachen: Sage Publication-RWTH Aachen University.Google Scholar
  25. Schmidt, A. (2008). Development and validation of the toxic leadership scale. MD: University of Maryland. Available:
  26. Semela, T., Bekele, H., & Abraham, R. (2020). Navigating the river Nile: The chronicle of female academics in Ethiopian higher education. Gender and Education, 32(3), 328–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sousa, M. J., & Rocha, Á. (2019). Leadership styles and skills developed through game-based learning. Journal of Business Research, 94, 360–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tavanti, M. (2011). Managing toxic leaders: Dysfunctional patterns in organizational leadership and how to deal with them. Retrieved 4 Mar 2014.
  29. Tepper, B. J. (2000). Consequences of abusive supervision. Academy of Management Journal, 43(2), 178–190.Google Scholar
  30. Wanasika, I., Howell, J. P., Littrell, R., & Dorfman, P. (2011). Managerial leadership and culture in sub-Saharan Africa. Journal of World Business, 46, 234–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wilson-Starks, K. Y. (2003). Toxic leadership transleadership. Transleadership, Inc.
  32. Xia, Y., Zhang, L., & Li, M. (2019). Abusive leadership and helping behavior: Capability or mood, which matters? Current Psychology, 38, 50–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Educational Leadership and ManagementUniversity of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations