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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Leader or Bully?

The past week or so has seen a media frenzy about whether our Prime Minister is a bully (or not as Downing Street says).

Many and varied have been the reactions ranging from the very soft to the extremely hard and there does not seem to be a consensus on even the definition of bullying.

Whatever the definition, bullying can take many forms not the least of which is downright subtle, which could include exclusion from meetings, sidelining, not speaking or ignoring someone. On the other hand bullying can be outward as a visible expression of anger.

Aristotle said (and I paraphrase) the anger can be a good emotion provided that it is focussed and is NOT widespread and continuous.
My friend Will Hopper, co-author of The Puritan Gift, in a recent blog (
http://thepuritangift.wordpress.com) recalls that Winston Churchill would shout at his Generals but expected them to shout back at him.

The clue lies in the relative positions of the shouter and shoutee (if the solecism can be excused). What is quite unacceptable is using the same methods to subordinates, especially junior subordinates.

Without doubt, that can be construed as bullying and has no place in a civilised organisation. Will Hopper makes the point that great organisations have an active upward flow of information and to inhibit that by the imposition of fear, in any form, is totally counter-productive, as well as showing the “leader” to be morally bankrupt.

In the end, the values of an organisation should be sufficiently well grounded as to ensure that the leadership requires the team to feel free enough to bring both good and bad news without expecting the messenger to be shot.


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