Guns and Roses

6 Oct , 2015  

Last week I intently listened to the interview of a CEO of a Fortune 100 speaking on his company’s strategy to the press; what he said during the interview caught me by surprise. He professed that he was more than happy to attend the retirement parties of his executives who failed to execute the company’s new strategy!

While I’m sure the media lapped up his words with gusto and must surely love him for his tough exterior (as his analysts/board/shareholders), I would give almost anything to know what ran through the minds of his employees having their leader speak about them in an unflattering manner to the press. And while I agree that his statement made for great media and sound bites (that’s how I got to know about this interview), let’s not forget the implications of his words to the actual asset of the company – the employees.

This brings me to an incident which occurred at a workshop I recently attended. One of the participants shared how his reportees were taking him for granted. The facilitator responded by saying that a leader should rightfully know when to hiss; bite and when to be nice. Hmm…easier said than done, don’t you agree? You see, all these qualities do not come in balance and should also NOT to be literally taken. Leadership is not “an act of play”; and we’re only human to NOT be able to have different sets of personalities for different situations. It is only natural for the true behaviour of an individual and a leader (within this context) to stick out most times. I also believe it’s not macho to show that you can bite or even hiss for that matter if you intend to lead. But ‘why’ do you think some of our leaders tend to lead by threat and/or make intimidating statements?

These are my assumptions hence read them with a pinch of salt:

  1. They do not have meaningful relationships or a coherent style to inspire their employees;
  2. They do not trust the culture, processes and people of the organisation to run effectively without them;
  3. Their own personal belief that people work better with a whip than a carrot;
  4. Lack of time and sometimes even skills to lead through the execution;
  5. Their personal upbringing where their success must have been ascribed to function under threat all the time.

While it is a great puzzle differentiating styles of genuine persuasion over intimidation, you will be able to distinguish the disparity when you’ve worked with somebody for a certain length of time. Genuinely persuasive leaders will help you achieve more by providing clarity to context; details of a situation; and positive consequences of achievement. On the other hand, intimidators (apt word huh?) would never fail to use off-putting words and phrases such as ‘accountability” and “the door is wide open’, amongst others, to drive home the point.

In your personal opinion, do you think the word “accountability” is a great choice of word to be loosely thrown around at the workplace and does it sound fashionable? Do you and/or your bosses use it frequently to come across as being highly professional? I would like to disagree as my mind is clouded with the use of the word resulting in negative consequences.

While some of us intimidate with words, there are others who choose to do so with actions (like transferring or firing) and a few others use Silence as a technique. Oh yes! One of my managers had this unique habit of not talking to her reportees who had poor numbers for the quarter for the entire day during review meetings. On top of giving them the cold shoulder, she would also not look at them nor acknowledge their presence – in other words, she would avoid them completely to drive home the fact that she was personally upset with them!

Her reportees would whinge to me that they felt intimidated by this and their take was “we are already feeling low due to the poor numbers. What’s the point in further humiliating us with these immature acts?” Obviously they could not tell this to their boss while they were being subjected to this standoffish behaviour!

I think leaders who intimidate their team members suffer from:

  1. Low self esteem
  2. Lack of courage to appreciate
  3. Insecurity
  4. Not loved enough…

Do you agree with me? If you are one of those who prefer to lead by intimidation or make power statements to get things done, I’m dedicating this blog post to you as a compliment of sorts. 🙂

“Say it with flowers,” said one of my mentors but I find it macho to tout a gun!

“Say it with flowers,” said one of my mentors but I find it macho to tout a gun!

One Response

  1. Subhash S Nair says:

    Hi Kamal,

    Thank You, Enjoyed reading your article.

    @ a broader level I feel the formula is very simple: “Treat others how you like to be treated”.

    A leader can never expect respect, commitment , trust, consistent performance from any team / team member unless he/she shares confidence, trust and clarity in thoughts / plan.

    A leader is responsible to transform lives, so he/she must be well updated ( Business, Technology, Latest Trends, People etc. )

    Keep writing.


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