Leadership Boo Boos - Part 3: Bullying



I know this one may cause a stir. Mostly because everyone defines it differently except, that is, for someone on the receiving end. I had no one in mind when writing this one, but rather everyone in my thoughts because somewhere in our lives we've all been on the wrong side of it. We all know this behavior doesn't work. We all know it's hurtful and destructive, and yet, there are those that just continue to behave this way. Why? Dunno.

So, let me get to the point.

Leadership boo boo #3 – Bullying

I recently read something on Netflix's site that I can't quit thinking about. It's few words, but big on meaning and impact. "There are no brilliant jerks on a dream team." Dear Netflix; I love you, even more, big-big now. Love, me. XOXO

That kind of summed it up for me, bullies are usually seen as less than fabulous folks, regardless of how smart they are. Know any that are super nice, wholehearted, and kind? I doubt it. The truth is, we've probably all been bullied in our lives, maybe some of you have actually been the bullies. This article is for both sides of this ugly little coin, because we can all learn from it. When kids in the schoolyard bully, it's awful. When adults behave this way, it's awful-er (not a word I know, but it works here). When leaders bully, it has a special sting because they’re responsible for those people that are there every single day working for their leader (and they need their jobs). People don't forget bullies. Not ever. Plus, they're rarely inspired by them (other than what not to do or how not to be). Then there's this: it's just plain wrong.

I should go ahead and define bullying right up front. According to Webster, it means "seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce (someone perceived as vulnerable)". Sounds about right. I'll take another jump and address the types of bullies. There are really only two : (1) The obvious type; and, (2) The behind-the-scene type (you know, the passive-aggressive ones). To be clear, they are equal. Being polite up front but seeking to hurt someone behind their back is no less bullying. Both types have the same intention and purpose - to get their way and to derive something or some power by putting others down in the process. Listen up bullies of the world, people may not tell you, but they totally have your number.

I remember a video that was popular a few years ago on Facebook. It was about honey badgers and their aggressiveness. I went around saying "Honey badger don't care" for a while, way past the point it was cool. Okay, I still say it, but that's not the point. So when I saw a documentary recently about honey badgers, of course, I had to watch it. It was fascinating. Those little badgers aren't afraid to approach the largest and fiercest animal out there and don't even shy away even when facing a pack of seriously savage beasts. They have a singular goal - get what they want and get it at all cost. They're not brave, they're mean! The video showed how destructive they are, tearing up anything and everything, when they've decided there's something they want. Nothing stands in their way; nothing and no one. Here's the thing, no one wants to be around them either.   Ouch.

The first mistake a bully makes is to underestimate people. They forget that people in general do know what's going on. Somewhere along the way, bullies started believing that leadership was about getting things done - no matter what. Don't get me wrong, there is much that leaders have to accomplish. But, if we're responsible for a team, we're responsible to create an environment that inspires the team to accomplish things. Unless the bully plans to do all the work themselves - which may work for a while, but at some point, we all need a team for a business to grow. The second mistake is not realizing that it's impossible to win someone's trust with fear. It just doesn't work that way. The third mistake a bully makes is forgetting that once they get their way, the people they've bullied don't forget how they were treated. Not ever.

Thankfully, I don't think we see as much of this today as in years past. The understanding of how critical culture is to an organization and its strategic importance has done much to bring awareness to getting it right.  Treating people badly isn't part of that equation. There's far less reward these days in being seen as top dog, versus being the one that nurtures and inspires their team to develop and win. To those that have made the shift, I say bravo; keep on keeping on. To those that have inspired the rest to follow suit and focus on the team and their needs, we are all grateful for your leadership and example. To the honey badgers, with love I say, it’s time to care after all.

Originally posted on LinkedIn.



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