By Chally Kacelnik
Not too long ago, a client was telling us about how a former leader at his company had introduced himself. It was by telling his new workers how many people he’d fired in the past. This set a tone of mistrust, and indeed this leader went on to sabotage opportunities for others. Needless to say, people were glad when he left the organisation.
People put on this kind of bungling big talk when they want to look strong and in control, but it ultimately weakens their efficacy as leaders. They are not going to get the best out of people. They’re not even going to get people’s respect or cooperation, because the bluster gives the impression of a lack of self-awareness and reciprocity. Trying to avoid looking weak through this kind of ham-fisted behaviour does in fact weaken you as a leader. It’s not even just about loud displays like that leader’s self-introduction; this behaviour can take the form of quiet, behind the scenes attempts to grind others down with power plays.
Displays of dominance are offputting, and they demonstrate that the leader doing the displays is choosing to operate through inappropriate exercises of power rather than through a grip on the authorities of their role. They are not inviting behaviour that is approachable or honest, because they don’t offer those things.
If you’re worried about being seen as weak, displays of dominance are a sure fire way to embed an impression of weakness. Behaving with courtesy, honesty, and respect is critical to fostering trust and respect, and that means being open about the fact that you get things wrong sometimes. Don’t fall into the trap of projecting sanctimoniousness, either – people have a sensitive meter for detecting when you’re trying to signal that you’re a great person rather than behaving well because you sincerely believe that you should.
Domineering behaviour makes me cringe with second hand embarrassment. It’s just so counterproductive in every direction, and it makes me wonder how people expect to build meaningful relationships and experiences in life if that’s the way they move through the world. If you’ve found yourself tempted into this behaviour, it’s time to put on the breaks and take some time to engage in serious self-reflection so that you can turn it around. You and those around you will benefit immensely.