Compliments of Mark Brannan via Flickr

Organizational development is the buzzword du jour – where highly powered (and highly paid) consultants are hired to fix what ails a company, or at least to provide diagnosis. The organization is however not a singular entity that can be repaired. It’s comprised of individuals whose actions in turn determine either its success or its failure. The appropriate unit of analysis is then the manager in charge.

Management is neither mystical nor mysterious. Rather, it’s inspiring workers to be better versions of themselves through self-discovery. It’s about you (as the leader) listening to your inner guidance, so you can render everyday miracles to the people in your care. This then is the essence of leadership – to share with others the kernels of truth that you’re able to find within yourself. Too often, bosses choose to do the opposite. In Nightmares, Demons, and Slaves, the authors argue that abuse of power has a devastating impact on those affected:

“…abused workers felt righteous anger, as illustrated in Bob’s comment, ‘I’m a 40-year-old man, you don’t scold a 40-year-old man. It’s just ridiculous!’”

“Amy and her coworkers labeled an unfortunately mild-mannered newcomer as the bully’s future ‘chew toy.’ These comments paint bullies as ruthless animals and targets as defenseless prey in one-down situations—whether as the bully’s entertainment (chew toy) or quarry. As such, these metaphors accentuate feelings of vulnerability and degradation.”

Abusive bosses behave as a SWAT team of one. Perhaps they’re bullies at work because it’s the only stage they have on which to suggest their importance. Their behavior undercuts the new employment model – which is not a directive relationship, but a facilitative exchange. All workers want is to be treated like equals, and to feel like they’re valued. That’s all they want.

Bullying is a desperate grab for self-importance, and a cruel desire to be the center of attention (Nepo,2000); it’s a virulent attack that when displayed publicly makes everyone feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, abusers are cloaked in a cocoon of self-righteousness that prevents them from seeing the sum total of their actions.

Individual enlightenment can occur only through concerted effort, and by a plan of attack to help us improve. In his chapter “Learn more to earn more” Campbell suggests we should make personal development part of our daily regimen by: (1) reading; (2) studying the lives of great people; (3) “being teachable,” and (4) attending human potential training. As part of your New Year’s resolutions, did you craft a plan related to personal learning, and to growth as a leader? Have you committed to becoming a better version of yourself each day so you can offer your level best to others?

If your inner recess is toxic, then that cesspool will be reflected in those around you. If punishment is your everyday approach to problem solving, try trading your stick for a seat at the table.   Nepo (2000) makes an excellent point regarding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – he explains that many of us are so concerned with the externals, we fail to see the people who occupy the physical space.

If people leave, then those physical elements lose their necessity. To this end, Campbell exhorts us to “Clean up any messes that have been created and deliver any communications that are necessary to complete the experience – including any apologies or regrets that are due.” Perhaps your humility is just the miracle another person needs today.

Related links: The difference between managing and nagging


Nepo, M. (2000). The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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