Johnnie Moore posts a touching analysis of what drives bullying bosses in organizations. Some recent research concludes that a perceived sense of incompetence can cause people to lash out against others.
This has been my experience. Our culture demands answers, expertise and bold confidence in making decisions. Most people are trained starting in pre-school that these traits are in the domain of the individual and that your success depends on them.
What is missing is training in asking questions, seeking help and acting from clarity. In schools, these practices are forbidden in exam rooms, where students are evaluated on their progress. You are not allowed to ask questions, to ask for help, or borrow other’s ideas. All of that is considered “cheating.”
The stress that comes from needing to perform as a solo act can be huge and the resulting manifestation of this stress can be toxic. I have worked with and under both kinds of leaders and once worked with one leader who started collaborative and curious and evolved into a frightened bully. It seems to me that these individuals that suffered did so alone, with the thought that as a leader, they should somehow carry the load by themselves.
In a world in which nothing is certain, and answers are elusive, these expectations will always result in stress. I can find it in myself, when I step into new work, at a new level, how my anxiety rises. This is why, when I am doing something new, I almost always work with friends.
My take away from this piece is that relationship and work are equally important. To sacrifice relationship[ building for “outcomes” is to not only jeopardize the sustainability of good work, but to create a climate in which good work is unlikely to ever get done.