I walked into the coffee shop. It was packed. And loud. I scanned the room. I wondered how we were going to be able to hear one another. Then it came. A deep, commanding shout from the back of the cafe, “Here!” Raising his arm. Index finger pointing towards the ceiling. Strong. Decisive. He might as well have screamed: “I’m number 1!”
Arriving at the table I shook his hand. He looked me dead in the eye. His grip vice-like. Was his intention to have me yell, “Mercy!” I wondered. He had a take-charge personality for sure and a formidable presence. He wore a power suit. Ultra tailored.
We had barely begun chatting when someone in the crowded space inadvertently bumped him from behind. He was up. In an instant. On the balls of his feet. Leaning forward. Was he planning to wrestle this person? Tell him off? Or just shoot him a menacing look, I wondered. Gratefully, it was the latter.
Given our email exchanges prior to meeting, I knew he was a senior sales professional. The company he worked for wasn’t in great shape. There had been layoffs and defections over the last year. They had just lost several more major accounts.
We were speaking at the request of his HR Director. He let me know this was the only reason. Adamant he needed no help.
Bully & Blame-Style Management
He had strong opinions about what was right for the company and who was holding him back.
The organization needed a lot of help from him to turn things around. He knew what was best. He was “in charge.”
No one was working as hard as he was. They were lazy and just making a mess of things. Getting in the way. It would be their fault, if the firm went out of business. No reservations about telling people they were clueless about what was going on.
When I asked what he could do to improve the team’s productivity, he said he was supposed to keep the salespeople in-line, and the “rest of them” were not his responsibility. His objective was to keep them on a short leash, maybe then they wouldn’t screw things up any further. His anger and disgust palpable.
This type of leader views things as black or white, right or wrong, good or bad. These judgments result in limited options, as the full scope of available possibilities isn’t apparent to him. He typically comes from a win/lose frame of reference.
He manages by force, control, or coercion. He gets caught up in focusing on “what’s wrong,” “what’s broken,” and, potentially, “who or what is to blame.”
Collaborative & Supportive Leadership
While initial results may look successful, this bully & blame-style of leadership will ultimately fail, as the effort expended to live and act with this constant unhealthy energy will drain him and those around him.
So the next time you encounter a bully, choose compassion rather than take it personally. Know that this behavior will only get him so far, and then he’ll hit the ceiling of his capabilities and management skills.
And, if you are that bully, see if you can’t begin to recognize your triggers and, instead, consciously choose to engage as a more collaborative, supportive leader.
For the benefit of all involved. Yourself included.
Don’t wait until you hit your ceiling. If you want to lead in a sustainable way.
Change your behaviour now.