Episode #26: Dismantling the Caretaker Dysfunction

Have you ever worked for a boss who reminded you of your mother or another overly nurturing family member? You know, the boss who always wants you to share what’s going on with you personally… The boss who gives unsolicited advice or tells you how to do something that you already know how to do… Leaders like this foster dependence on themselves by using feelings and empathy to lead – instead of expectations and feedback. These leaders will treat all their employees like fragile, easily overwhelmed children who are incapable of stepping up to the challenges of their roles. (No wonder high achievers tend to disappear from these leaders’ teams faster than you can say “how does that make you feel?”)

In today’s episode, we discuss the Caretaker Dysfunction and share some practical tips that you can start using today if you or your leaders are struggling with an overly nurturing leadership style. We’ll also share real client stories that illustrate just how common it is to find this type of leadership behavior in organizations today. Tune in to learn all about the Caretaker Dysfunction and discover what you can do if it’s suffocating your organization’s success.

If you want to know more about Anne & Heather’s work with dismantling dysfunctions in organizations and leadership behavior at Caliber Leadership Systems, check out:




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Are you dealing with an organizational dysfunction you need help with? Or do you have a story you would like to share on our show? Contact us at [email protected].



  • [01:49] Episode introduction and overview
  • [02:41] What is the Caretaker Dysfunction?
  • [14:58] Know yourself and your self-protective persona
  • [17:51] Don’t take their behavior personally
  • [21:11] Influence, don’t oppose
  • [24:54] Build self-awareness
  • [29:06] Recognize when you are taking things personally
  • [31:52] Learn to say no
  • [35:09] Let employees find solutions themselves
  • [39:50] Episode gem & practical takeaway
  • [41:57] Episode wrap up



  • Supportive leaders who operate from the Caretaker Dysfunction will become emotionally demanding, bossy, and insist on conformity.
  • When suffering from the Caretaker Dysfunction, leaders will have little tolerance for anyone who isn’t “like them” or at the very least, willing to take their help and support.
  • To start overcoming this dysfunction, caretaker leaders must resist the impulse to simply give answers to employees that solve their problems. Instead, they should shift to asking questions that will help employees think through a problem to arrive at the solutions themselves.
  • Whether you are the employee of a caretaking leader or you’re a caretaking leader yourself, check out the full episode for your guide to addressing the Caretaker Dysfunction in your organization today!


"Deciding to compensate for poor performance instead of managing it is an act of self- disempowerment."
episode 18 quote tile 2 - "When acting from the Victim Leadership Persona, our power and sense of personal agency is taken away by seeing situations through a  lens of helplessness."
episode 18 quote tile 3 - "Self-disempowerment starts from within. Leaders need to recognize when they are keeping their self-esteem low."
episode 18 - quote tile 4 - "Leaders need to watch that they aren't being pulled into the position  of rescuer when interacting with employees."

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