March 13, 2010

Leadership, Loutism or Blatant Bullying?

Leadership: inspiring others in "the accomplishment of a common task"

Loutism: acting like a lout - "awkward, stupid, and boorish"

Bullying: being "habitually overbearing and intimidating"
It is a short step from loutism to bullying, because both groups have no respect at all for others, and a very high sense of their own importance. The lout acts in a selfish, non-personal way (like yelling obscenities or spraying graffiti), but I have a particular disdain for people who feel the need to boost their self-image through the repeated use of threats and intimidation against other individuals.
However, when such tactics are used by those already in positions of authority it is not only unacceptable but a complete misuse of their position, and brings the whole management/leadership process into disrepute.
  • Surely the fact that they have "power" over others would be enough to satisfy their need to feel more important and influential? Why on earth would they need to threaten and belittle their subordinates?
  • Their role is to manage, lead, direct, encourage, or otherwise exert their authority for the benefit of the organisation or community.
  • If there is a need for discipline, they are expected to carry this out in a firm but respectful manner, and only in the interests of the community or organisation as a whole.
  • Personal piques and prejudices are completely unacceptable reasons for unfair treatment of those "below" them.

Such behaviour is seen everywhere of course, with petty-minded, disturbed or ignorant people being ill-advisedly placed in positions of authority, where lack of supervision and monitoring allows them to indulge their greed for power over others. Prisons, detention centres, police forces, armies, schools, business corporations, nursing homes ... the scope for such people is depressingly wide.

All civilised people deplore such behaviour, of course, but most of us see it every day without doing anything about it. Sometimes a bullying culture is so ingrained that it is seen as normal, or perhaps even justified, as in the case of prisons, the army or even big business. It is much harder to excuse the situation in schools, hospitals, and other organisations where the primary goal is not punishment, discipline or profit.

In such situations we all have a responsibility to stand up to bullies and those who similarly misuse their authority. If someone stands alone they are likely to be harassed, ridiculed, or even dismissed from the organisation. Not an appealing prospect for even the bravest souls. But if everyone makes it clear that those in charge are expected to behave in a fair and respectful manner, without resorting to personal attacks, threats and intimidation, then there is a far better chance that message will get through.
Remember: bullies are simply insecure cowards who lack the talents and personality to succeed on their own, and therefore have to put others down in order to raise themselves up.


KC said...

I know a few bullies at DMOZ. They're in charge of... something... petty...

Unknown said...

A timely and accurate observation, KC.
It seems that many of those in DMOZ management positions subscribe to the rather bizarre view that people can be coerced into showing respect, and that misleading people will somehow make them trust you more.
It's like Alice Through the Looking Glass.


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