I heard a horrific story this morning. A fellow I was chatting to about leadership shared with me a story about his wife’s workplace. She works for a corporate in the city. Whenever a member of her team makes a mistake the boss emails all the staff highlighting the person’s error. This wasn’t a one off, but a regular practice of her leader.
Everyone who were listening to that small anecdote gasped. What is her boss trying to achieve by casting everyone’s glare on the one single person?
“So much for building trust,” muttered one person.
“It’s got to be all about control,” said another.
I was amazed, but not surprised. Poor leadership practices go unchecked because we are afraid to call them out for what they are: corrosive, soul destroying, all about the leader and his or her control and power.
There is another name for this type of behaviour: bullying.
I don’t doubt that there are plenty of other leadership practices that fall into this category, commonly used in workplaces because either the leader doesn’t know better; is under significant pressure themselves to achieve short-term targets; has been consumed with their own self-importance; and/or, doesn’t realise that to get the best out of people you have to trust them.
People suffer these practices in silence, frightened of the consequences if they do say something. In their minds the only solution is to either put up, or get out.
But if no one has the courage to call out leadership practices that are corrosive nothing will ever change. The leader will never have the opportunity to change their ways, to grow.
History, sadly, has plenty of examples of corrosive leadership practices that went unchecked and ended up with horrific consequences.
Just like our school days experiences, the bully continues bullying because we were too frightened to say something for fear of retaliation.
There is much at risk when it comes to calling out practices that go against every principle of good leadership, but in sharing experiences you can contribute to the learning of those wishing to be better.
I thanked the person for sharing his wife’s experience because it helped me check my own practice. When someone I lead does make a mistake, how to I handle it?
We can often learn more about leadership from bad examples than we do from people who are exemplary. Sadly, that’s because we take for granted those great at their job, but notice poor leadership like we notice foul air.