Bully Leaders Do Win Sometimes


Whether it is on the world stage or in our local companies, the sad reality is that Bully Leaders win sometimes.  Especially when they go up against more passive leaders.  So does this mean we should all learn how to be bullies so we will win?  It all comes down to company culture and your ability to adapt your leadership style.

I have worked for a few bully leaders, and to be honest they have won and I have lost because I didn’t know what hit me.  Experience has taught me how to deal with bully leaders, and I doubt my losing streak would continue if I am unlucky enough to work for one of these gems again.  It is all about figuring out what makes them a bully.

One manager comes to mind on this topic, and reminds me of the day I finally resigned.  He said he didn’t want me to leave, but was clueless as to why I couldn’t endure him any longer.  While I was the productivity star on his team of managers, I was his most ethical manager too, which conflicted with his and the company’s culture.  Yes I am a Boy Scout, Eagle Scout actually, and my ethics are pretty entrenched.  He used to bluster and yell at me, called me every name in the book, all to get me to ease up on what is right and wrong.  He met his match in me, and yet I was the one who resigned because he finally wore me down.

This guy was the kind of manager you wanted if there was a ton of work to get done.  He could orchestrate all the components and people necessary to move mountains, and yet his tank like methods often left a lot of bodies in his path.  It happened to me and it really happened to my staff after I left.  Many of them understood what I had gone through protecting them from the abuse after I left and their shield was gone.

My mistake, what I have since learned, is that bully leaders exist because we let them exist.  We let them yell at us, push us around and get away with abusive behavior.  I know now that I allowed this bully leader to win, and he is still winning today because no one else is stopping the behaviors either.  The learning point is we sometimes lose to bully leaders, but it is because we did nothing to slow them down let alone stop them.

Do you work for a bully leader?  What have you done to rein them in?  What can we do to help you?

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2 thoughts on “Bully Leaders Do Win Sometimes

  1. I’ve never really experienced a bully leader who could actually lead very well. At least, that is in my view about what true leadership really is. I suppose there are many exceptions to this. Steve Jobs was reported to be a bully leader that achieved exceptional things, I’ve just never seen it personally.

    What happens to me is usually this type of scenario. The first couple of times, I let the bully do what they do. Scream, yell, whatever. I won’t do much at first. But eventually I stand up for myself (and occasionally others)… and that’s when the real trouble seems to start. I guess I have a “mean” side to me when pushed too far. I will push back hard. In school, it ended up resulting in a few fights and a bloody nose. In the workplace I end up yelling right back. At times, I’ve even ended up LAUGHING at the bully (man, that really infuriates them!) and their often absurd accusations. I have to work really hard to stay calm.

    • I agree they don’t lead well, but they get things done. I like your approach, and if I can add that letting them get away with any bad behavior is why it gets caustic when we do push back.

      I now quietly inform them that I don’t appreciate being yelled at, cussed at, patronized whatever, and I end it with a big period and a pause. They are either silent, or choose to escalate it. And if they choose to turn up the volume that is when the behavior gets reported.

      I must say, I wish I had thought of laughing. The response would have been priceless!

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