Leader or Bully?


November has been a banner month for leaders being in the news for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, there are no shortage of examples that include those from politics (Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford) and sports (Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins).

We all watch in judgement asking why organizations can allow – even encourage – behavior that we would all agree is reprehensible.  However, let’s be careful that we are not sitting in a glass house before throwing the first stone.

Blogger Julie Christiansen reports in her blog that “ 

A recent Wall Street Journal Blog cites research that found “many workplace bullies receive positive evaluations from their supervisors and achieve high levels of career success, despite organizational efforts to curtail bullying.”

Many revered leaders of our generation including Apple’s Steve Jobs and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos are notorious for striking fear into their employees.  A colleague describes Bezos’ gift as “being able to drive and motivate his employees without getting overly attached to them personally.”

This cold and calculated leader has become an almost expected prerequisite for success.  Why is this?

When we collectively allow it to happen and willingly follow leaders that treat people poorly, we get exactly the leader we deserve.  Worst of all, if “the bully” is successful in your organization…guess what type of leader will excel in your organization? Guess who stays and who leaves?

Being in the business of Leadership Development, I am not willing to concede that leadership equates to being an ass.  So, it was nice to read a Canadian Business Magazine article on TD Bank’s CEO.

Ed Clark was recently featured as the magazine’s CEO of the year primarily for the bank’s financial success.  However, I was struck more by Ed’s commitment to “no yelling” and the belief that fear makes people less willing to share problems. It is likely no coincidence that TD Bank was one of the few large banks not affected by the financial crisis.

So, what leader do you want to follow?  The Bezos’ of the world who avoids getting “overly attached”, or a leader like Ed Clark who responded to an employee’s family crisis with a simple handwritten note that said:

Whatever you need – Ed.

Until next time, visit SigmaLeader.com and let’s develop some more Ed Clarks together.

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