Crisis of Leadership

Interesting thoughts on leadership  by essayist and critic William Deresiewicz in an article entitled Solitude and Leadership: If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts – published by The American Scholar:

  • Why is it so often that the best people are stuck in the middle and the people who are running things—the leaders—are the mediocrities? Because excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you. Pleasing your teachers, pleasing your superiors, picking a powerful mentor and riding his coattails until it’s time to stab him in the back. Jumping through hoops. Getting along by going along. Being whatever other people want you to be …Not taking stupid risks like trying to change how things are done or question why they’re done. Just keeping the routine going.
  • We have a crisis of leadership in this country, in every institution. Not just in government. Look at what happened to American corporations in recent decades, as all the old dinosaurs like General Motors or TWA or U.S. Steel fell apart. Look at what happened to Wall Street in just the last couple of years …
  •  … our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place.
  • … What we don’t have are leaders. What we don’t have, in other words, are thinkers. People who can think for themselves. People who can formulate a new direction: for the country, for a corporation or a college, for the Army—a new way of doing things, a new way of looking at things. People, in other words, with vision.
  • …  true leadership means being able to think for yourself and act on your convictions.
  • Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. You simply cannot do that in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly interrupted by Facebook messages or Twitter tweets, or fiddling with your iPod, or watching something on YouTube.

Exec’s Advice for Dealing with Bully Boss

This is part of a larger interview dated  July 17, 2010 on the New York Times web site with Dawn Lepore, chairwoman and chief executive of Drugstore.com and director of eBay and The New York Times Company. In this excerpt she discusses her experience working for a bully boss.

Q. Any bosses you had who were big influences?

A. I had a very bad boss early in my career. She was older than I was. She’d started in the financial services industry and she’d had a very hard time, so I think that probably shaped her as a leader. She was very smart but had terrible communication skills. She did not make people feel valued or comfortable or like they were supported at all. And I remember what that felt like. And I thought, I’m never going to do that to people.

Q. How long did you work for her?

A. Many years. I almost left twice.

Q. What’s your advice to people stuck working for a bad boss?

A. Life is about trade-offs. And you have to be conscious of the trade-off you’re making. I felt there were enough other positives in the environment and enough opportunity that I stuck it out. But, you know, I was unhappy. I had to kind of just take a deep breath and say, O.K., I know this is going to end and I’m willing to put up with this.

But you can’t be a victim. If you let yourself become a victim, that’s the kiss of death. So you’ve got to feel, O.K., I am choosing to do this, and when I decide I can no longer do it, then I will take action. So I will not let myself be so belittled that I think I can’t do anything. If it starts undermining your confidence, then you have to leave, because then that seeps into everything you do.

TOP 10 REASONS FOR BEING TARGETED

1. I remained independent, refused to be controlled. (70%)

2. My competence and reputation were threatening. (67%)

3. The Bully’s personality. (59%)

4. My being liked by co-workers and customers (47%)

5. In retaliation for my reporting unethical or illegal conduct, whistleblowing. (38%)

6. I was focused solely on work and ignored the politics. 36%)

7. Bully had personal problems. (35%)

8. I am nonconfrontative and easily overrun by others. (33%)

9. I was at a time of personal medical or life vulnerability or changes. (30%)

10. I could not afford to leave the job and the bully knew it. (30%)

* From Workplace Bullying Institute (2003)(non-scientific survey of 1,000 volunteer respondents who visited WBI’s web site).

SAMPLE BULLYING POLICY

Workplace Bully Policy

Ideally an employer would build upon this template, adding important  details, such as which company representative is designated to receive employee complaints and where an employee can go to find  moreinformation. 

Company X considers workplace bullying unacceptable and will not tolerate it in any circumstances.

Workplace bullying is behaviour that harms, intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates an employee, possibly in front of other employees, clients or customers. Workplace bullying may cause the loss of trained and talented employees, reduce productivity and morale and create legal risks.

Company X believes all employees should be able to work in an environment free of bullying. Managers and supervisors must ensure employees are not bullied.

Company X has grievance and investigation procedures to deal with workplace bullying. Any reports of workplace bullying will be treated seriously and investigated promptly, confidentially and impartially.

Company X encourages all employees to report workplace bullying.

Managers and supervisors must ensure employees who make complaints, or witnesses, are not victimized.

Disciplinary action will be taken against anyone who bullies a co-employee. Discipline may involve a warning, transfer, counselling, demotion or dismissal, depending on the circumstances.

The contact person for bullying at this workplace is:

Name:______________________________________________

Phone Number: _______________________________________

* Adapted by the Ontario Safety Association for Community & Healthcare from the Commission of Occupational Safety and Health, Government of Western Australia. (Toronto, Canada, 2009)