How to be a Badass Without Becoming a Jerk-hole
You can’t succeed as a leader if your need to be liked exceeds your drive to achieve.
There are three options in the tension between results and relationships.
- Results without relationships. (Jerk-hole.)
- Results through relationships.
- Relationships without results. (Pushovers.)
My wife and I are watching Counterpart on TV. The main character is Howard Silk.
Howard is a nice guy who keeps his head down and does his job. He’s disciplined, kind, and loves his wife.
Howard, in episode one, is a pushover.
Howard meets a badass version of himself from another dimension. Badass-Howard kills without remorse. His wife hates him. Badass-Howard stands up for himself.
People-pleasers need a little more badassiness.
#1. Love goals. Badass Howard has little time for chitchat. He’s always thinking about getting the job done.
#2. Drive for results. Progress is nice, but badasses are like caged animals when it comes to results.
#3. Don’t need to be liked. A badass needs to get things done more than they need you to feel good about them.
#4. Walk on anyone who isn’t on board. Relationship building for badasses – if it exists – is about getting things done.
#5. Do hard things because they need to be done.
Tension between “drive for results” and “need to be liked” is your badass score. Badass scores less than 5 mean you’re a pushover. Scores higher than 8 indicate you’re a jerk-hole.
How to be a badass without becoming a jerk-hole:
- Value relationships.
- Develop goals that require courage. Stretch goals bring out your badassiness.
- Surround yourself with people who believe that results are more important than relationships, when the choice needs to be made.
- Work on bringing kindness and drive together.
- Need to be liked by a few people, not everyone.
What does a badass leader with heart look like?
How might people-pleasers develop a little badassiness?
Interesting blog Dan. Dare I say thought provoking.
Reflecting on myself I can see scope for greater badassiness to drive greater outcomes, particularly in areas where I allow people to achieve less than they could as a result of accepting the plausible story for failing.
I agree that you really don’t want to cross over to jerk-hole land, and this can be a fine line. I suspect that you can be a badass more if you align your behaviours with company values, clear connection to mission/goals because – basically – all you’re really doing is accepting less excuses. Perhaps baddassiness is needed to take an organisation or team to a high performance level. Less celebrating mediocrity and more celebration of achieving tough goals?
Thanks Rob. I really wanted to ignite thought. I’m interested in people observations and suggestions on this topic.
I see a high value on results as important to move people pleasers toward a tougher form of leadership.
I think you’re right, values are core to this conversation. Especially values that express the priority of relationships.
The other important factor is context. Crisis and pressing deadlines seem to impact the way we treat each other.
Yes context is a very valid addition. As crisis develops it usually reveals more of the badass in us all. The tension becomes excruciating for the leader that wants to be liked but needs to lead in a way that may be less popular. This can be cashflow issues, closing down good ideas that are popular but not delivering, the classic hard conversation with a popular but non achieving team member etc.
Dan, I think you hit on a core concept, that of context. Those who drive for results without understanding the true impact and value of the results leave a wake of pain and frustration in their path. I think I remember the term soul sucking? If we are in a life or death battle then dang the torpedoes. If we are just trying to make ourselves look good, well then think about the impact to those who are doing the real work.
Thanks Wayne. Great seeing you here today. Glad you see the value of context. Crisis leadership requires more command and control, for example. When the house is on fire, someone needs to point to the exits. But there is a limit to being bossy.
To put it another way, there is a limit to taking the thoughts and feelings of others into consideration. If their approach hurts the team, it doesn’t matter that they are upset when you confront them.
Love the analogy to current culture!
A lot of management and leadership lessons are available on television and movies. And not just obvious shows like the Sopranos but often even more so on historical ones like The Crown!
Thanks Brad. Someone told me their team watched Hidden Figures and used it to discuss leadership. Sounds fun!
I’ve historically considered myself a servant leader, as such heavy on relationships and placing people first. This last year has been one of substantial growth with hard conversations for me, let alone those that work for me. I consider myself a team member and leader, as the team has the knowledge to achieve the goals and help everyone success as they are the SME. I’ve set some lofty goals this next year, ones that the team can achieve, it will be interesting to see where we land. However this reminds me need to continue to be tough. How do you see being a servant leader, while not being a push over, balanced out?
Thomas I learned a while ago that being a servant leader doesn’t correlate to being a pushover. The team respect you more if you’re firm but fair – by all means support the team and serve them as leader but ensure you’re serving the whole team (including your manager, the board etc) by achieving the company mission and goals and lifting the standard of expected performance. Address the deadwood, challenge the team member that is coasting, work on developing them into what they can be, challenge the processes that have always been that way. Lead them to success
Thanks Thomas. I think Rob hits an important point. This conversation includes tensions between support and challenge. Challenge without support makes you a jerk-hole. Challenge with support makes you a successful leader.
People pleasers struggle with the challenge side of leadership. Jerk-holes struggle with the support side of the equation.
When I decided to use “servant leadership” I was told no that is a 100% pushover way to lead. I disagree. My job is to administrate this program for my employer and to lead a team to get task assigned to us done. With that said by me being more focused on the employs and their needs in place of my needs (career) all gets accomplished. Employs are driven by goals they helped establish for themselves and the team. The other good thing is the employees understand how important my role is for them. Loyalty and respect is the end result. One draw back is most employs have a goal of moving up. I tend to have a higher turn over but unlike other teams my turnover is due to promotion not termination. Pushover vs jerk such a thin line.
Thanks Walt. Agreed. Servant-leaders aren’t pushovers.
The question is who/what/how do you serve. In the end, serving organizational mission while aligning with organizational values is a servant-leaders highest priority.
We like to say that we put people first. The caveat is we don’t harm the organization in order to put people first.
You are so right Dan and when I explain my leadership style to new employs I make it clear who I work for and if need be who has the highest priority. I have seen leaders try to hide that like its a secrete and that will always result in a loss of trust. It is all about syncing the employers goals with the employees goals. If you can do that its a win for everyone.
Lots of lines being drawn today, we tend to face the tough conversations when dealing with clients more often than one thinks, you have to “learn to manipulate” without being a pushover, we give whats needed to keep even kiel.
With employees you have to be open yet the guidelines you manage by are there for the process, not necessarily Jerk/hole or badass, open to interpretations. They can work together for the good of all.
Thanks Tim. Interesting use of “manipulate.” I know you offer it with ethical considerations in mind. Ethical manipulation seems to be a form of influence. I know you wouldn’t deceive.
I get the sense of navigating the tension of competing interests in your comment. This suggests that you might end up being rigid with one group and flexible with another. It may be that when you are flexible with customers you are also becoming rigid with employees. You expect more from them.
I think Rob MC hit it “Firm but fair”, would be my chosen methods with workers and clients. “Fair corelates to clients better than manipulate, perhaps “alternate solution sounds better than deception.
I am noticing more and more use of crude language in the public discourse. It is not a compliment to us as a society. I would ask you to consider how you might use other language that is not crude to convey your thoughts. I am convinced that you are an able communicator that can do better than this. I have recommended your blog to many people but the thought of them reading your post today containing such language is concerning to me.
I have gained much by reading Leadership Freak. I am not abruptly discontinuing my readership. I want to be fair and give it some time. During this time of observation I will not be recommending the blog to others.
From: Leadership Freak Reply-To: Leadership Freak Date: Monday, January 29, 2018 at 8:26 AM To: Kevin Prince Subject: [New post] How to be a Badass Without Becoming a Jerk-hole
WordPress.com Dan Rockwell posted: “You can¹t succeed as a leader if your need to be liked exceeds your drive to achieve. There are three options in the tension between results and relationships. Results without relationships. (Jerk-hole.) Results through relationships. Relat”
Thanks Kevin. I appreciate you sharing my blog and respect your concern. My wife agrees with you 100%. I couldn’t think of a better word than badass. It seems to have a bright side and a dark side all at once. However, I’m open to alternatives in the future.
I hope I haven’t embarrassed too many people with this post.
Kevin, I too was a bit set off by the word choice;
until I read the first line of Dan’s offering and realized he had manipulated my predisposition for civility to make the real point almost instantly and viscerally (no mean feat) :
we need to worry less about the appearance of respect and dignity (by simply “doing” something to be liked) than the functionally complex reality of relating (to “achieve” results of tangible value).
Having noticed an objection to the wordchoice, I determined to find a better one
(“Mother” and “SOB” popped out, but I got my inner gremlin to stuff them back into my own symbiotic murk; “Rogue” works for meaning, but carries little socially significant vitality; “Contrarian” fits, but is too abstract; etc.),
but I fell short of a more successfully impactful alternative.
At that point, I faulted him for not going the full Monty (literally) by using “jerkhole” instead of the more structurally appropriate word; it would have made the point of “results w/o relationship” far more exemplar.
But, after consideration, I saw that even I would probably have been distracted from his central point –
sometimes you have to be contrary, but there is a way to do it (achieve it) w/o alienating (entirely).
Any better yet more acceptable alternatives you can think of?
Humane badasses tolerate zero bullshit while facilitating genuine dialogue
and remind everyone constantly and precisely HOW relationships work (achieve results ilo simply doing functions),
and thus what is acceptable, and what is not (behaviors and attitudes – honest persuasions over manipulative deceits).
And yes, the badass is the self-appointed arbiter whose judgment reigns, until persuaded otherwise.
(See the rurbane 3-strike rule of turning the other cheek without taking your eyes off the offender … shame yours, shame mine, you’re gone.)
Thanks Rurbane. Someone has to enforce the rules of relationship or organizational culture becomes the result of tolerating incompetence.
You make me think about vigorous respectful debate when making decisions. Nothing personal is allowed. But when decisions are made, everyone pulls together, regardless of the ultimate decision.
If leaders tolerate backstabbers after decisions are made they are pushovers. We made the decision. Grab an oar and row or get out of the boat.
Ditto dat, Dan 🙂
Dan I have to wonder if todays title allowed this person to feel it was appropriate to chose the words used here that others have commented on. As you know the leader (that is you here) sets the standers and limits that will be allowed and of course once that is changed someone will always push it to find what those new limits are. Just my view. Choice of words aside the response to the subject is very correct.
Thank you Dan, this is a great post that leads (pun intended) to further discourse as it relates to being a leader. The key is in finding the right balance. I have found that having “crucial conversations” that are open, honest, and to the point provide great opportunities to maintain the balance between being a “jerk” and a “pushover”.
Here is where we are, here is where we need to go. How do we get there?
These two statements (done correctly) followed up with a question creates a culture of accountability and engagement which are strong components of success.
If you condone it, you own it!
Thanks Joe. The way we approach results/goals, “where we need to go” seems to be the determining factor in being a pushover or a badass.
Thanks for adding a reference to crucial conversations. The way we deal with tough issues makes all the difference. Compassion and resolve. Kindness and drive.
Thomas, I believe that if you are truly focused and effective in establishment of relationships it becomes easier to have accountability discussions. At least with folks that aspire to greater career heights or are in managerial roles. A bit tougher with those who are less “hungry”, to borrow from Lencioni’s Ideal Team Player concept, and yet the trust built through relationships work there too but perhaps not as directly. If that makes sense.
If they trust your motivations and trust that you are going to work with them rather than over them, you can and should maintain accountability.
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