7 Cures for Cruelty
“All cruelty springs from weakness.” Seneca
Cruel leaders believe they’re helping when they’re hurting.
Some of the most shocking, disappointing, and frustrating moments in leadership come when you begin to realize …
good intentions don’t compensate for lousy leadership.
- Fear looking weak.
- Prolong uncertainty.
- Protect themselves.
- Tell the truth when they’re mad.
- Explore reluctantly and decide quickly.
- Think either/or.
- Use sarcasm to get their point across.
- Call monologue dialogue.
- Use fear to motivate.
- Don’t tell you what they really want.
- Prolong pain by not dealing with tough issues. Fake kindness is the beginning of cruelty.
- Lie to make people feel good. Dishonesty in the name of not hurting someone – hurts everyone.
- Minimize others; maximize themselves.
- Encourage game playing and office politics.
- Say, “It’s just business.”
- Don’t say, “Thank you.”
- Give feedback but don’t receive it.
7 cures for cruelty:
- Passion with calmness.
- Candor with compassion.
- Transparency with optimism.
- Explaining with curiosity.
- Progress with feedback.
- Strength with gentleness.
- Openness with decisiveness.
Circle the qualities, in the list above, that you excel at. The un-circled qualities are what cause unintentional suffering. You may be better at candor than compassion, for example. The result is cruelty.
The cure for leadership-cruelty is bringing contrasting qualities together at the same time.
Don’t balance these qualities. Bring them together. Think of having candor and compassion at the same time, for example.
Cruelty is the result of segregating noble qualities, skills, and behaviors.
The number one solution to leadership-cruelty is honest communication while seeking the best interests of others.
What do cruel leaders do?
What solutions to leadership-cruelty do you suggest?
Thanks Dan. This post changed my perspective about what cruelty means… It’s not a black and white issue and can be very insidious. To me, this post reinforces how intertwined our interactions and our intentions are. It also reminds me to think about ramifications before I open my mouth! Thank you for the post!
Thanks KB. In the past, when I hurt someone, I’d say I didn’t mean any harm. I’ve stopped saying that. It helps that I didn’t mean harm but it doesn’t solve anything.
“I didn’t mean any harm” is just an excuse for poor behavior. — Dang that stings.
once a good intentioned fellow made an egregious error ( in IT terms ) – he and I talked and he went home, physically ill, planning on never to return. I tried to save his job, and asked him to return the next day, and my boss made me fire hm.
Still bothers me to this day, I humiliated him twice by not recognizing reality.
Well here we go again!! Lol
See(pun) people do see and when they act their actions make perfect sense to them. So people, not cruel leaders…. And who among us don’t think their perspective is wrong???? Hehe
Supremacists of all ilks truly, deeply, sincerely believe whooey!!
They might just be mistaken!!! Or they might be right? And who isn’t a Supremecist believer in their own beliefs?? If you weren’t you wound change those beliefs!!!
Others are different, not necessarily wrong!! Different ain’t wrong, it’s different!!!! Look it up on wiko-pedia!!! Hehe
By the way Michelle, my Bell, between 13,000 and 14,000 cool people on that Ken Wilber call last night. Doing it again sat I think. My email is linked to my name here, email me I will send you the link.
Shane you too, know Integral is something you want to explore.
Anyways, people do what they feel is right. Who am I to judge???? I really don’t know in the big scheme, so just leave them be!
Thing for me to have a happy life is to choose to hang with people who agree with my perspective, prejudices and preferences.
Why try to convince a vegan how great a slab o beef is??? Why do that? Just have lunch with another slab o beef enthusiast.
Solution, the highest Spiritual Calling of all, just LOVE!!
Remember most people have no idea what they are doing. They are spending their time trying to convince themselves their made up stories are true.
Just let them do their thing!!
Tried to write real slow Michelle!!!! Maybe will help the slow thinkers!!! Lol
Take care!!! Integral!!! Yeah that is the ticket!! Help get the 5% to 10%, you know the tipping point!!
This is a great post to complement a great deal of my own ‘research’, posts, and dialogs over the past year to year and half, Dan. Good stuff.
Although I could easily share on almost every point you made, I’ll stick with the ones that stood out for me the most.
#9 is HUGE. I’ve seen and experienced this a great deal throughout my life. It is also common in command and control settings and is temporarily effective for people who fear punishment and/or lean towards needing approval and people pleasing tendencies. Ironically, those that have ‘suffered’ from being treated like this will tend to unconsciously dish it out to others in various ways as well….even if they ‘think’ they wouldn’t ever be that way with people.
#10 is also a big one. There’s many things lurking behind this one, and it varies depending on the person and what sort of events/circumstances led them to not feel they could directly and safely state what they want. Especially if legitimate needs were denied and/or were punished for asking or stating what was wanted or need in various relationships and settings.
It really does take some conscious awareness and work for any of us to identify what fears underlie our challenges with fearing to ask or express what we want with people directly. When people can’t do that, the energy of the person is tied up in passive aggressive behaviors in order to ATTEMPT to still get what one wants but without the responsibility of having to directly confess what it is. (it’s a safety measure)
Unfortunately, not only does this eat up the energy of the person doing it, but also tends to drive the more ‘direct’ and open people CRAZY because that’s exactly what it is…crazy making behavior. Eventually, people can figure out someone natural ‘bent’ in life and know when they aren’t being direct and honest yet none of us can CONTROL whether or not a person will learn or overcome their inability to be open and direct. All the way around it eats up a ton of energy that could be devoted to other things.
#11 I could really wax on quite passionately about this one. (grins) I’ll spare you and note that much of what I stated on the last point applies to this one as well. A HUGE time and energy suck for all people involved. Problems increase, fester, and become more overwhelming and difficult to solve. (procrastination) Which ultimately leads to what the avoiders feared in the first place. Self-fulfilling prophecy.
#12 Ties right in to the last 2 points. Some people (and surprisingly, this is REALLY bad in religious settings/circles) people are conditioned to be polite. Stuff the expression and honesty of legitimate needs. The chronic ‘givers’ just wind up giving more because for whatever reason, they take all of the instructions on giving to heart to a FAULT and give to the point of dysfunction >>> ultimately…co-dependency. Enabling becomes the name of the game. Unconsciously.
And here’s what I’ve found that’s missing for many people. People are being taught and learn to GIVE from a position of WEAKNESS rather then from a place of personal empowerment. People are giving to love others while basically HATING and NEGLECTING themselves. (ourselves) When there is NO instruction stating taht we are to love others while HATING ourselves. No. I believe specific religious instruction clearly says love others as we love ourselves. So loving ourselves IS a prerequisite! (not in a narcissistic sense…but in the healthy…I have WORTH sense…not as a victim or as a slave)
I really loved your ideas on circling the qualities and noting which ones aren’t circled. What a way to learn how we may be cruel without consciously realizing it!
That was outstanding!!!
Check out Integral and see if you can wrap yourself around that perspective!!
Have a great day and thanks for sharing your perspective based on your experience.
If there is professionalism in the office, it should remove any hint of a cruel nature.
Wow, this was awesome Dan. The only thing I would add is that what counts as cruelty lies in the eyes of the receiver. For example, a passive, non-involved manager who does not get involved in an employees work may be a blessing to some employees, especially if they are autonomous and have the authority they need to do their job. However, it can cause emotional havoc among those who are more idealistic and energetic, who need to be connected, discuss ideas, and feel like part of a team.
Encounter this type of behaviour along the way. Display of drama by these cruelty leaders by shouting and screaming their heads off at their staffs in the presence of public bystanders . Sometimes, I really think that they are unconscious about their own stupidity, and have been punishing and showing off their “power” and are just bullies. My solution to them is to see their psychiatrist and manage their anger before they end up with a heart attack. The best thing to do is just to keep calm because anything one say can aggravate their silliness. Life is too short to be upset by silliness.
A leader who honestly communications with others…seeks for to understand and then to be understood…always equals an opportunity looking for a solution.
It does not mean that the “cruel” leaders are the leaders. I would say that the’ leaders ‘ that are able to handle these type of “cruel leaders” are the leaders of the “future” ! It’s when one experiences situations like this and handles it well that makes one a great leader! People like these are hard core bullies! No amount of communication can work. It’s a waste of time especially when they consider themselves above anyone!
Really, really good information & observations, Dan . . . and something I’m in the midst of right now (although I didn’t see the issue as cruelty until reading your post).
Here’s a question for you: The opening graphic says, “The cruelest leaders don’t see the suffering they cause.” Do you think it’s possible — except having to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis — to help cruel leaders recognize that that is what they’re doing.? I’m not certain that the cruelest leaders can even be made to acknowledge what it is that they are doing.
So could it be a more effective strategy for me to just let others be???? I mean people with issues…..why join in their misery? Isn’t them having to live trying to suppress the lies they are telling themselves enough???? I say buy them a cake, maybe some comfort food will help them.
So the last time someone came up to you and pointed how how lame, stupid and wrong you were….what was your response???? Did ya thank them or wish something really bad would happened to them?????
So how do you want others to see you??? As the person pointing out their foibles?????
Their stuff is between THEM and their Maker…..leave it there and go find someone you can really be useful to and get that oxytocin flowing on an epic level!!!!!
Just don’t buy in and try to fix. They do not think they need fixing and it is their business NOT MINE to figure that out. Just saying……
When what my leader is doing affects the work, psyche, attitudes, motivation, and enthusiasm of people I’m responsible for, then I need to figure out a way to protect those folks. Ignoring is not an option. Some of these cruel leaders are so totaly non-self-reflective that they don’t have a clue as to the impact they have on others. Clueless = non-misery to them (just misery to everyone else who suffers under them.
I guess what I am saying Scott is it takes two to tango!
Did you know NO ONE upsets me….EVER!!!!!
I am only upset if I am upsettable. I do it to myself crafting the story of what I think is happening to me. Feel others do the same.
As far as protecting other folks, think if they are annoyed enough, they are grown up enough to take care of themselves. Am I there to take care of them of LEAD them? So if I do this this way just how long are these folks gonna be dependent on me to be there to protect them??? Forever?
If I do not trust they can take care of themselves I hired the wrong people in the first place.
Trevor Blake wrote this great book called 3 Simple Steps, he talks about setting up this protective area around himself NO ONE PENETRATES.
If this is true and worked for him might this be a better strategy for helping people than trying to clean up after their own mental messes?
I am not a Christian but I think that book says something about feed a man feed him for life, teach a man to fish………….
By the way Trevor came to America with 74 bucks in his pocket.
Built two companies, sold the first for 100 million bucks and the second for 300 million.
Seems to me a pretty pretty good guy to learn from. Got this mental strategy thingy worked out so he gets pretty stout results. plus happily married to the same AMAZING woman for forever. Just a tremendous man to learn from and model.
What I am getting at is what I shared is what I learned from what he taught me in his book.
Setting up caretaking, really…….I KNOW you are smarter than that or I would not have bothered commenting. No one protects me from idiots except me.
You have NO idea the idiots I have worked for in my life that have not concerned me one little bit!!!!! hehe
With all due respect, it’s a little different to choose not to let someone hurt/irritate/bother you in a non-work environment than it is in a work environment where an individual who is cruel happens to be in a management position above you. Yes, there is a power in deciding not to let someone affect you in a negative way. This theory goes out the door when they have hand in choosing your daily responsibilities or . . . writing your reviews.
Dianna, I deeply appreciate your respect.
Thing is Principles before Personalities.
In other words if it works a little, it works the whole way through even when the going gets tougher.
If the Principle is sound, then 2 plus 2 equals 4.
It also means 1 million plus 1 million equals 2 million. Even if it is raining and thunder and lightening everywhere. Do not allow the circumstances to jade your focus on the principle. Or do!!!!! hehe
Now it is tougher for people to understand when they first see this math cause it is unfamiliar. After one works with it for awhile they find it is the Principle working, not the circumstances. Period.
Plus, when I set myself up to fight others battles where does it end? Have I really helped them or made them dependent on me for their protection?
If I fight their battles I rob them of the growth to grow into people who can take care of themselves.
Who do you want in the foxhole? Someone YOU KNOW has your flank or someone you have to take care of too, besides yourself? You are both gonna end up dead!!!!!!!!!!
The circumstances do not matter, principles do.
Kid has a problem in the playground. What is best? Father to go out there and whup up on a bully?
NO!!!!!!!!!!!! Best then to do is send that kid out there and tell him to pop the biggest one in the mouth as hard as he can!!!!!!!!!!!!! Even if takes a whupping he took the first step to taking care of himself. Period.
If you want to set it up where you got to feed people the rest of their lives, fight their battles for them. If you want them to grow up and realize they CAN take care of themselves, show by example how to do that.
And one of the reasons we got 80% employee dissatisfaction in this country is stuff just like this.
Allow people the opportunities to stand up on their own two feet. And if a person finds they are working at the WRONG place like most of us…………GET OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL
I know it is tough, but is is only gonna stay lousy if I am in a bad place and I stay!!!!!!!!! it ain’t gonna get better SO LEAVE!!!!!!!!
Look there are 3 billion new people coming to the internet in the next 5 years.
I read what you write everytime you write Dianna. You are smart, crafty, and got GREAT things to share with people. You help people with your wisdom and insight!!!!!!!
Learn to package your gift! Others a LOT less interesting, talented and smart as you are, are!!!!!!! Why not you??????
We just been putting up with this mess TOO LONG! Do something about it instead of trying to make the best of it!!!!!!!!!!!
Just me two cents worth!!!!!!
I believe Dianna you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to! Just imagine how much belief I would have in you if I knew you better!!!!!!!!!!!! hehe
Just go buy 3 Simple Steps and see what Trevor says about this. He is THE MAN!
Book real cheap on Amazon, think you can buy it and get it shipped for under 10 bucks.
Do this, get that book, read it, ponder what he says…get back to me see if you still have the same opinion! Deal?
I feel a need to take issue with you on one assumption: Inthe day-to-day corporate world it does not take two to tango. Only one. The one with the power — real or perceived. And power is almost always perceived by all as a one-way street — from the position of power downward. One of my roles as a “Team Lead” (translate, supervisor) is to be responsible for the well-being of my team members. More often than not, my best choice is to NOT engage the person in the power role who is being knowingly or unknowingly cruel; but, rather, to work through the situation one-on-one with my team member who feels like he/she is being the focus of the cruelty. First question I ask: “Are you being impacted by this to the extent that you need me to step in, or can you handle it on your own?” I have no intention of being anyone’s babysitter; but neither do I want them to feel like they have to deal with MY boss without my assistance of they want it.
Do you have any advice on how to help other leaders recognize cruelty in themselves? It’s a really tough conversation to have when the person doesn’t realize that their words and actions feel cruel to others.
Again Dan … good blog. As pressure to save money and the fear of keeping one’s job, such cruelties are brought out from people. What is amusing to the victim, I guess in a masochistic way, how people you trust change their behaviour when their jobs are at jeopardy. I believe those traits were always there in that person. During the “good times” hints of cruel leadership are there but more subtle. You see it, you experience it but you second guess yourself giving that person the benefit of a doubt and say to yourself … “Was he/she being cruel? I must be over reacting.” As the work place undergoes more stress, these cruel leadership tendencies seem to come out more … to the point where cruel leadership is blatantly obvious. Don’t expect the ostriches in the office to acknowledge cruel behaviour of a fellow co-worker since they “fear” being the target of the cruelty.
Thanks, I agree with your thoughts. Remember when the rite thing to do was still the rote thing to do? As a nation, I am afraid we have lost our morale compass.
Wow, Dan. I am beginning to think you have my head bugged. Dealing with what you call a cruel leader is my next big challenge and while I would not (publicly) use the word cruel, I am stuck for a better one.
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to lead a visioning retreat for an organization who’s leader fits your seventeen points as if I they were written about him personally. Most of his constituents see him as an evil monster who has ruined the organization in the name of keeping it afloat. Fortunately, his boss (and one of his boss’s bosses) participated in the same retreat. They walked away with more than a little heartburn over the situation, but recognizing that something needs to be done.
I tried to pick a favorite among the seven cures and was unable to. All of these are so important and I may just take this with me with I debrief with his boss on Monday. My message will be that all of the issues that bubbled to the surface during the retreat have solutions, none of which requires an execution. In fact, it is one of those amazing opportunities to “leave the campground better than we found it.”
As always, thank you for your insights, Dan.
In my opinion, I think there is lack of love in their life! Just take it with a pinch of salt and love them dearly!
One of your very best posts Dan! This is a great exercise in mindful leadership. Thank you!
It is a great article! Very helpful for the culture of the Leadership in Romania (where I come from)!
Very good read! I think the statement at the end sums it up. “…honest communication while seeking the best interests of others.” I can only be the leader *I* want to be with honesty and integrity, looking to the best interest of all concerned.
Good afternoon Dan
As you know my present situation finds me ‘smack-dap’ in the middle of the circumstances regarding today’s blog. Your list of”Seven cures for cruelty” are absolutly true. Playing ‘tit-for-tat’ with cruel leaders may restore your precious pride, ( while it recks your organization), but it will not effect the relationship in a positive manner. I have reached out inall humility with this very list in mind. Only to receive arrogant responce and contempt in return. Some would suggest leaving your employer for greener pasture’s. Unfortunatley this is not a feasible option for those like me that have years invested with your organization especially when you are only a few years from retirement. So, short of beginning proceedings on the grounds of a ‘Hostile Work Enviroment’ or filing a civil suit for ‘Defamation of Character’ what are your suggestions to the individuals who face unfair, unjustified sruttiny from superiors whosesoul purpose is nothing more than character assasination?
P.S. “Any update on the afternoon workshop”?
This is a very good blog. I think we – I – have all been guilty of unintentional cruelty from time to time. What do you do about leaders who like to be cruel?
And then there are those who are just outright psychopaths, plain and simple. Unfortunately some in this category would circle all those good qualities with such a lack of self-awareness it would make your head spin.