Unnecessary Roughness: What Happens When Leaders are Mean

A side effect of being a leadership blogger is that people go out of their to tell me stories of “bad leadership.” Unfortunately bad leaders are everywhere, and show up in all kinds of organizations. Lately my readers and others have been sending me examples of what I call, “unnecessary roughness.”

“It was Superbowl Sunday, 5 minutes before kickoff, and our sales director calls a mandatory conference call to discuss lagging KPIs.
“My boss knows I go to church, but always calls me on Sunday mornings at 10 am, just to “check in.”
“Our entire scorecard is “green” with unprecedented results, but our ops review was brutal. No one smiled. They kept drilling us all about really trivial areas where we “weren’t doing well.” Not one mention of the positive results.”
“I was 5 minutes late for a meeting, because I was wrapping up a critical conversation with another senior leader. He went crazy in front of everyone. ”

I imagine you have heard similar examples of unnecessary roughness in your world.

Unnecessary roughness comes in many shapes and forms. When I hear these examples, I always ask the same question, “why do you think s/he acted that way.” The most comment response (after he’s a jerk or she’s just a witch) is “because it gets results.”

The Pros and Cons of Unnecessary Roughness

Unnecessary roughness…

  • Drives short-term results
  • Creates compliance
  • Scares people into working harder
  • Reinforces your position of authority
  • Keeps them on their toes
  • Will ensure you never hear bad news
  • Will make you feel powerful
  • ? What would you add?

Unnecessary roughness also…

  • Creates paralyzing stress
  • Stifles creativity
  • Will bury problems
  • Will translate to customers
  • Causes people to work on the politics more than the work
  • Increases absenteeism and attrition
  • Is contagious
  • Teaches your team that “mean” is okay
  • ? what would you add?

And so my first point don’t be that guy. Take a good look in the mirror to ensure you have no signs of unnecessary roughness.

But what if you’re dealing with that guy? I bring this to the Let’s Grow Leaders community for your ideas and suggestions (please comment). I’ll incorporate your suggestions into a future post.

How do you cope with unnecessary roughness?