Courageous followers are alert to the language of
The use of derogatory terms to describe groups or individuals dehumanizes them and establishes the climate for
It requires as much courage to confront a leader about language as about behavior; it is easy for the leader to ridicule our concern and claim the words were “unimportant” or “harmless.” They are not. Confronting the leader about demeaning language is a critical opportunity for establishing a relationship of
When leaders use euphemisms (
“It’s regrettable this
happened” instead of “I’m sorry I did that.”
“Our policy has always been” instead of “I support the policy.”
“The budget didn’t permit” instead of “We cut your request.”
killedin the bombing” instead of “We bombed and killed civilians.”
We don’t have to bludgeon leaders about their use of language. We can point out
History is papered over with language that obfuscates the abuse of power. By challenging leaders and groups to assume responsibility for their actions and the words they use to
There are various attitudes and behaviors specific to individual
A courageous follower who is working closely with an arrogant leader must try to contain the effects of the leader’s behavior, as difficult as this is to do. Arrogant leaders often denigrate supporters to each other, creating an environment in which no one
We might attempt a containment strategy along these lines:
Get the leader’s agreement that it would be good to build a stronger team; from his feeling of superiority, the leader will probably agree he needs a stronger team.
Get the leader’s agreement that denigrating each other weakens the team.
Then exact a simple, but critical, commitment from the leader: that he will not demean team
membersto each other.
By curtailing demeaning comments, the whole atmosphere
surroundingthe leader can change. The fires of arrogance are not continuously being stoked.
Once we have an agreement, we can challenge the leader to
“________’s not here to clarify her actions so why don’t we hold off discussing that.”
“That may not hold up under closer scrutiny. Let me investigate and report back on that.”
“I’m not comfortable impugning their intentions. Let’s focus on what we need from them.”
“We’ve agreed not to harp on our own people’s shortcomings. What is our responsibility as senior management for the performance problems?”
This is an instance in which, by changing behavior, we can sometimes change the underlying attitudes. In the interest of the common purpose, it is worth trying.