I hadn’t actually heard the term before, but when I googled it, it turns out bully leadership is a thing. It’s several steps beyond an authoritarian leader, since while both authoritarian and bully leaders fail to obtain input from others, bully leaders use fear and intimidation as their primary tools for influence. Though that style may feel effective and efficient, in the end, it does not pay off.
The most visible example of the consequences of bully leadership is – you guessed it – Donald Trump. While 30% of the public feels The Donald is an effective leader, the majority of the country and the world see right through his style. We are seeing that bully leadership is, in the end, destructive and devisive. It may feel “great” to align oneself with the bully leader, until the bully turns on you.
- You punish others, in small or large ways, if they do not do as you wish or if they appear disloyal, creating lasting damage to them.
- You don’t try to understand others’ feelings or circumstances, and use criticism, badgering, harassment, threats and blame to control them while failing to provide the support they need to be successful.
- You want to beat others and win at any cost.
- Those around you no longer challenge your thinking.
- You feel you’re better or smarter than others, and that you have the best ideas. You take credit for the work or ideas of others.
- You use information against others instead of sharing proactively.
- You use power excessively and will do whatever it takes to get your way or advance your agenda. The end justifies the means.
- You don’t understand your own or others’ emotions or motivations or how to use that information to be effective.
Though bully leaders may be able to move the bottom line, in the end they hurt they organization. Consider Trump again. Indeed, he made incredible gains initially, winning the Republican primary beyond all expectation and conventional wisdom. In the end however, his take-no-prisoners approach is threatening to unravel the Republican Party and has the potential to greatly harm the country if elected. He has been described as dangerous by many prominent thought leaders around the world.
Bully leaders thrive when their superiors look the other way to their toxic and damaging behavior. With regard to our elected officials, we the American people ARE their bosses. Our electoral process is designed for us to choose the right candidate for the job. Therefore, we must be the ones to say “No, this type of behavior is not OK” and must not be fooled by the initially positive outcomes.
Government is not the only place to hire or promote bully leaders. They are in our organizations, families and communities. Those who condone the behavior, either implicitly or explicitly, share the responsibility for the bully’s outcomes.
So get out and vote this November. If you have not registered to vote yet, do so now!