Intimidating Leaders – a Boon or a Bane

14 Apr

My daughter who usually regales the family at the dinner table with her stories about the day was rather quiet for the last few days. Upon enquiring she mentioned that she was not having a good time at college. She was being bullied by a few seniors and asked me for a solution to handle the situation.

The conversation took me down the memory lane and I recollected instances where I had been bullied or had a difference of opinion with my peers or colleagues. I realised that the bullies I encountered always pushed me towards doing better or achieving something that seemed unattainable and some of these bullies are my friends today. I realised that maybe my reactions to being bullied were different and not everyone exhibits a similar reaction when they encounter intimidators.

We more than often come across bullies or aggressors at our workplace and I decided to study their personalities on how they have delivered to the organisation and most importantly how they impact teams and people around them? There was a visible pattern that emerged. Individuals subjected to constant and long term bullying by leaders or colleagues had damaged personalities and they develop psychological or health disorders. Such aggressive employees or leaders are extremely harmful for an organisation’s culture. At the same time the research revealed that certain individuals, especially leaders who are subject matter experts and very high on potential are often abrasive in their demeanour. Given their focused attitude they drive performance through fear and push their teams towards achieving good results. However, in the long-term they end up devastating the teams and the performance could not be sustained. Then there are assertive leaders who strike a fine balance between being a bully and an empathetic leader. These individuals are very well versed with their subject, have a brusque attitude but at the same time are compassionate. They drive performance by inciting aggression in the teams through motivation. Their teams know what could take the organisation to the next level and together they strive to achieve it. Both teams and innovations flourish in this environment. The final category that emerged, were kind leaders who only lead with their hearts. Their teams are happy but extremely low on productivity since their leader lacks the vision, drive and focus to deliver results.

If the teams need kind and compassionate leaders they also need a bully who is rational and can drive them to achieve targets and bring improvement. However toxic leaders who constantly showcase this behaviour not only lead a team into poor performance but also scar the team members for life. There are both pros and cons of an intimidating leader. Pros are that they shake things up and provide redirection and may even turn the organisation around. However, if they continue to create havoc they can inflict too much damage and need to be weeded out.  What is critical here is that whether people understand the underlying message behind this behaviour. One must discern whether the behaviour is short term or is your boss is difficult and abrasive throughout the year.

If the reason behind the behavior is a superior vision then you must not shy away from pushing yourself to align with the leader’s vision. You can learn, groom and transform your career by being in the shadows of such individuals. Given that such leaders are invincible in their area of work and are obsessed with the quality of deliverables. If you happen to have an assertive leader, then it is a best position to be in or work for. Along with influencing your professional career these leaders leave a positive impression on your personal growth as well.

However if the behavior displayed by the leader is all about humiliating others and you allow yourself to be bullied and accept it as a part of life, it will definitely have negative repercussions.  When confronted with such leaders or colleagues you must not react brusquely but give a thought to the reason behind the disdain showed by the intimidator. How you could counter this behavior and not let it impact the spirit. Also, working with leaders who have great humility but no vision is equally dangerous, since over a period you lose direction and experience a stunted growth. Both these leadership traits are like poison, if administered in small quantity it may do wonders, but overexposure is always destructive.

If you read books and articles by management gurus, no two gurus will give the same formula on what goes into the making of a great leader. Neither have they been able to agree on a set of traits that define the right leadership style or a great business leader. Sometimes even fear works for an organisation especially when it needs to be shaken up. In our professional journey we will work for different organisation and will be subjected to different kind of leaders showcasing diverse traits. It is then for the individual to decide, what works for them and under which leader they are most likely to flourish.

In life whenever you encounter such behaviour be it at your workplace, your college or in your social circles, think about the power a bully has over you. Is he or she hurting your pride and distorting your personality? Most importantly, are you allowing him or her the importance they don’t deserve? When you are able to think this rationally, you will realise that this behaviour germinates from the bully’s own insecurities and rejections they have faced in their lives. Bullies get powerful when people succumb to their behaviour. You must at all times be assertive with them and never radiate fear because bullies cannot exist without victims. While I explained this to my daughter, I was not very sure whether she understood it correctly given that she was under a lot of stress. I then gave her one mantra that has helped me in my journey.

People don’t leave an imprint on your life, unless you give them a position of control and allow them to lead. Be the captain of your soul, every person you meet in your lifetime adds value and it is you who must decide how much of it you want to take!

9 Responses to “Intimidating Leaders – a Boon or a Bane”

  1. SMITA DEEPAK April 17, 2017 at 5:53 pm #

    Truely agree with Sir.

    I believe the same in my life.

    We are the Captain of our Life, we should not allow anyone to rule / lead us.

    we should have a wide Magical door in ourself to the big world of wonders to search and to explore.

    Thank you for sharing the Msg to all of US.

  2. Sudeshna Dasgupta April 17, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

    Sir this is a very nice article. Sir this is very true that “People don’t leave an imprint on your life, unless you give them a position of control and allow them to lead. ” But sometimes be it organization or be it family or social life or college, it may happen that due to organizational structure or due to peer pressure or due to family pressure we have to accept the situation and allow us to get bullied and that time it becomes very frustrating which leads to poor performance and abrupt behavior.

    • JANAGA NANDHINI April 19, 2017 at 11:44 am #

      The individual to decide, what works for them and under which leader they are most likely to flourish.This was true and we have that fredom in our company.Proud to be in good hand and this article inspired me lot sir.

  3. Kaumudi April 18, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

    Such minute & correct observation on the issue …
    Great learning to be absorbed from the article

  4. Yogesh More April 19, 2017 at 10:49 am #

    Respect for those concluding lines!

  5. Dr Chandan Rath April 19, 2017 at 11:14 am #

    Agree.Also would like to add that

    1.Intimidation leads to protectionist leaders in the future who lack the confidence to take risks and initiatives and take the institution to greater heights. This is a long term damage to the company.

    2. Some minor shocks are definitely needed to jolt some subordinates into action, but this should be an exception rather than a rule.

    3. Transformational and/ or visionary leadership requires a capable and charismatic leader to extract a willing and phenomenal output from subordinates.

  6. Kalpesh Joshi April 21, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

    Really excellent, Short & Crispy informaiton on Ledership qualities as well as how to understand & handle it.
    Truely useful in day to day life.

  7. Ghanshyam Shah May 29, 2017 at 3:07 pm #

    Thank you Tapan Sir for an incredible piece of wisdom, I must say! Reminds me of Charles R. Swindoll!
    Very wonderfully it has been said that our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens!
    Our lives bring to us by the attitude we bring to life.
    If we possess this one word “attitude” correctly, rightly and positively, I believe we are all set to conquer life our own way.
    Attitude is more important than appearances, giftedness or skills.
    It can make or break a company, a home or a relationship!
    But then Charles Swindoll says:, ‘the remarkable thing is that we have the choice to create the attitude – the one thing that we don’t have to buy, beg or borrow from anybody else but which we can create and develop on our own and that is attitude’.
    And he says, ‘we cannot change our past, we cannot change the way, people act, we cannot change the inevitable; the one thing we can change is the only thing we have the control over and that is our attitude and therefore he concludes that I am convinced that life is only 10% what actually happens to us and 90% how we react to it.’

  8. SOURABH GOSAIN July 2, 2017 at 11:10 pm #

    Nice message for every one and especially for those who want to become a real leaders at work place….


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