Our current political climate is such that every day we become more confused about what leadership really means, how to detect true leadership when we see it, and how to project it when we have it. For many, being a leader means assuming a role that entitles you to the authority to be an irresponsible, entitled bully.
In business, it is no different. It used to be an honor — an earned privilege – to be a leader. Today, too many leaders use their leadership roles not to lead but rather to strip others of their identity. They think it makes them look strong.
According to a 2010 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 35% of the American workforce (or 53.5 million people) has directly experienced bullying–or “repeated mistreatment by one or more employees that takes the form of verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, humiliation or sabotage of work performance”–while an additional 15% said they have witnessed bullying at work. Approximately 72% of those bullies are bosses.
These bullies inflict fear and throw people off guard to ensure environments where they have complete control. Bully bosses are masters at ensuring that their departments, divisions, and/or organizations feel uncomfortable or uncertain about next decisions, promotions, or strategic partnerships. To further control their team, bullies silo work environment, dividing, marginalizing and disconnecting their team so they don’t trust each other or him.
If bully managers cause so much grief, you wonder why so many of them are allowed to remain in power?
A bully manager does elicit compliance because people are fearful. The unit reporting to this manager will perform at a credible level, even though people are unhappy and underutilized. The crime is that the unit could be so much better, and the lives of the workers could be richer if the manager was replaced by someone with higher Emotional Intelligence.
Many units get by sufficing on a culture of compliance and avoidance and do not even realize the huge potential they are missing.
Another possibility is that the entire corporate culture is stuck in this Ebenezer Scrooge mentality. Hard as it is to fathom, there are still old style companies where management likes to terrorize. A discussion about changing the culture of an organization would get lost on them.
We feel sorry for you if you end up in one of those bully-cultures.
Get out if you can, and find your way to another organization with modern approaches to leadership, and there are a lot of models that work. What most of them have in common is a leader or leaders who make insightful, moral and high-principled decisions. They put people first, not last, and they’re compassionate about collaborating, and encourage and reward the contributions of others.
While these qualities are a part of several leadership philosophies, they’re at the very core of a leadership model that has survived the test of time – servant leadership. It a philosophy of leadership developed by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1070. The underlying premise is that it’s less about you as a leader and all about taking care of those around you. It’s a noble and honorable way to led and conduct your life, and one that surely needs to be pushed in a period when bully leadership is resurging.
A servant leader detects who gets it immediately and finds ways to elevate the individual capacities of those that don’t – they lift and lead and unleash people’s passionate pursuits. Bully leaders take advantage of those who don’t get it and marginalize those who do for the betterment of themselves. It’s a zero-sum game that weakens the workplace and makes it impossible to win in the marketplace.
Sharing of ideas and ideals? Allowing people to live with an entrepreneurial spirit? Those threaten the bully-leader’s stature and exposes their inability to create relationships that generates momentum and growth within their organization.
In her book “Bloom Where You Are Planted,” Dr. Crystal Davis lays out the seven pillars of a servant leader.
Servant leader is a person of character. They’re insightful, moral, and high-principled.
Puts people first. They serve in a manner that allows those served to grow and persons.
Are Skilled communicators. They seek first to understand and then to be understood.
Compassionate collaborators. They invite and reward the contributions of others.
Have foresight. Are visionary and display creativity.
Think systematically. They integrate input from all parties in a system to arrive at holistic solutions.
Have a moral authority. They value moral authority over positional authority, and empower others with authority as well as with responsibility.
How servant leaders behave is a key to their successful leadership. Behaviors are means of communicating. For example, treating people with dignity, being in the moment and not multitasking, not interrupting others, listening intensely, smiling, saying please and thank you, acknowledging the contributions of others, admitting mistakes, apologizing, not having to be the smartest person in the room all the time and spending time on the front lines with employees and customers.