COMMENTARY: Leading by Inspiration

Leadership is not a matter of authority, it is a matter of influence. A true leader teaches others to understand more, motivates them to be more and inspire them to become more. – Michael Josephson. It seems so obvious that leaders are more effective when they inspire rather than intimidate so why are negative management practices so prevalent?

Why are so many managers oblivious to the demoralizing effect of focusing on weaknesses and shortcomings without properly acknowledging successes and accomplishments? How does someone in a leadership position justify yelling, cursing, insults (sometimes masked in sarcasm or masquerading as jokes), criticizing subordinates in front of others, threatening demotion or termination, and talking to adults as if they were children? Do they really believe that causing resentment, fear, or insecurity will produce better results than pride, self-confidence, and enthusiasm?

Some managers intentionally use negative tactics because they think it’s an effective way to get people to do what they’re told, but most managers characterized by the people who work for them as rude, inconsiderate, or abusive are totally unaware of how inappropriate or counterproductive their attempts to motivate are. They think they’re just being tough. The people under them think they’re just being jerks.

Many good people act badly when they become the boss because they’re under pressure from their own boss to get results. Maybe they’re simply mimicking the management styles of people they worked for. Or maybe they want to distinguish themselves from ineffective managers on the other extreme who try so hard to be everyone’s friend that they don’t set or achieve high goals or hold people accountable.

Whatever the reason, a far better approach is to treat everyone with respect by engaging and empowering others through inspiration and example. The best leaders bring out the best in people by making them feel good about themselves and their capabilities.

Inspiration is much more powerful than intimidation.

By the way, the same thing is true for parents and coaches.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 3

  1. Of course, the positive approach is/works better, but I disagree with you that these abusive managers are clueless as to the effectiveness/inappropriateness of their comments. If they are clueless, it’s not out of naivete, usually. Frankly, it’s done deliberately, due to their ego, needing to put someone else down to feel superior. It’s done deliberately, and they enjoy throwing their power around. As you said in another post, as did a Graduate Psychology teacher I had at Rutgers U., that whatever (aggression) you allow, you reinforce. So it’s incumbent upon us, without having our own ego, of course, to put a stop to this. As a Communications Specialist, I gave a Communications Workshop for the staff and administrators at the LAUSD school at which I taught using role-playing, and upbeat methods: it had great rewards–an entire year of no staff yelling at each other, where it was previously rampant, including in front of the children!

    For our bosses, if conferencing with them about this doesn’t work, we must go above their heads, to their bosses, peers, etc., work with our unions to file grievances, etc., for this to take effect. Most just look the other way, as long as it’s not done to them, and denying its existence if is done to them…that reinforces it, and abandons all others.

    We are our brothers’ keepers, and must do all within our power to transform the situation…

    This very week, at my home during a remodeling project by an outstanding company, my Spanish bilingual skills were useful, as I, in horror, saw/heard one supervisor in charge of a specific task, verbally abusing his helper, an older, gentler man trying hard to do a good job. He yelled, put him down, and I saw the arrogant, satisfied look on his face, as he continued to “get away” with it…At first, I just said to myself, I’ll tell his boss later. But things regressed before my eyes, I felt impelled to help this poor soul, and told the supervisor in Spanish to stop yelling at him & to be respectful. He walked away, and I counseled the victim, telling him he deserved better, that no one was better than anyone else, and that it was not part of the job to take that, as he apparently felt, as an immigrant. I told him I was a teacher, and would report his boss. He waved his hand as if to say no, but I told him I must. I told his immediate boss, and the Head Project Manager, who thanked me, agreed that it was out of character for their company; I now hear that a report is to be filed. Dirty little secrets only prevail if no one opens the closet door…

    First we stop the bullying, and then, and only then, do we teach peace, love, and respect, as I did to my inner city class, and I ended up having the only class in the entire school that didn’t fight on the yard! Cause and effect works! This life is not for the faint of heart…

  2. Negative stimulus is crude and archaic, but sadly we still find a lot of “leaders” using it in the 21st century either due to how they were (mis)treated, lack of training and self development, or failing to imbibe and apply proper work ethics and good inter-personal skills.
    Its works for a while, creating disharmony and insecurity and disaffection. On the long run, it’s the job that suffers as creativity is slaughtered.

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