Glorifying Bullying Bosses

There are many bad and bullying bosses in the media. What is the fascination?

Posted Jun 05, 2013

An acquaintance mentioned to me that her boss was like a “Gordon Ramsay” who threw tantrums and belittled workers. “But, I guess he’s a good leader,” she added. I have to respectfully disagree with that assessment. A boss who acts out and bullies subordinates cannot be a good leader – effective, perhaps, but not a “good” leader.

The media seems obsessed with bully bosses. Bosses who have raving tantrums – Gordon Ramsay, Donald Trump, and an entire array of bad bosses on TV shows – may make be entertaining, but they are terrible leadership role models, and that is why I am concerned.

People often confuse leader effectiveness with good leadership. Getting things done, achieving goals, and creating a productive company are not enough if the leader is leaving a path of destruction in his or her wake. A leader who bullies workers or tears them down is not a good leader despite the outcome. Here are my rules for good leadership:

1. Do the Right Thing (Don’t Just Get Things Done). Good leaders have a moral compass. They have purpose in their actions, and they create lasting value.

2. Be Ethical and Responsible. Don’t break or fudge important rules. Treat people with respect. Don’t lie, cheat, or steal to get ahead.

3. Limit Collateral Damage. Don’t leave followers exhausted, damaged, or demoralized in order to achieve outcomes. Here is where the bully bosses do the most damage.

4. Develop Followers. Good leaders mentor, coach, and develop followers. They build the talent and potential of their workforce instead of belittling them and destroying their confidence.

5. Leave the Team and the Organization Better Off. Good leaders make everyone stronger and better. They are concerned about the group’s or organization’s success even after they are gone.

So there is no reason to glorify the bully bosses. They are poor leaders, poor role models, and they perpetuate the practice of incivility.

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