Be less of a jerk.
That may be the most simplistic leadership advice you’ll ever receive. Why, then, is it so difficult to achieve?
Because we glamorize people who act like jerks, who, by definition, are quick, sharp, and sudden, which we often deem as desirable leadership traits, we cannot help but enjoy the bravado and outlandishness. It is easier to cheer on jerks than those who are mealy-mouthed and non-offensive.
The people we think of as jerks in the world tend to accomplish a lot. Unsuccessful jerks are rare. With our pendulum of praise, we build up the nice guy and then tear him down if he makes what we consider a jerky move. Or, we give the jerk a pass because their novelty is funny or refreshing. We applaud the straight talk. Then, if they start to make nice, compromise, or give a little, they are lambasted as traitors or worse.
Ours is an interesting society.
Actors like to play villains. Writers enjoy crafting a good nemesis. We’ve all lost someone to or have ourselves been attracted to, the stereotypical bad-boy or bad-girl in our lives.
As a kid, you may have thought bullies grew out of it, but as an adult, you may have noticed that there are still many jerks in the world. If the statistics are correct, you likely work for one. Moreover, if you are leading others, it is inevitable that someone, somewhere, thinks you are a jerk.
Are they right?
What good has behaving like one brought you or others?
You might have what you think is a legitimate answer, but really, there’s no excuse for being a jerk. You can achieve the same results if you act with class instead.
A jerk cares primarily about themselves; they do not serve others beyond that goal. A leader with class acts on behalf of others.
A jerk is blind to integrity. They have a narrow definition of it which is often fungible. They prize loyalty and honesty in others who serve them but don’t themselves return the courtesy. A leader with any class makes sure their word means something.
A jerk has no dignity. Their trademark is the blatant disrespect and contempt they hold for others. A leader with class treats everyone with dignity, regardless of their station in life.
A jerk is incapable of empathy. A leader with class pauses to imagine and share in what someone else is thinking and feeling.
Do not misinterpret a leader who acts with class as weak; they are not. Because they are the rare breed seemingly devoid of insecurity and committed to a purpose, they are among the strongest. Jerks make noise and try to convince people it is music. Effective leaders make a difference, often in quiet hours. You do not see them because they are not celebrated with the same vigor. They do not desire press or adoring fans. They want results that help change the world.
A full-blooded jerk does not reflect, therefore, can not see clearly. If you’ve been a jerk to someone and you know it, there’s hope for you. Make amends, and next time, be less of a jerk.
You Don’t Have To Be A Leader to Be a Role Model
You are a role model.
You may not know it.
You may not like it.
You may try to reject it, saying you never asked to be one. It doesn’t matter. You are someone’s role model.
Kids, for one, either your own or their friends, maybe a niece or nephew or neighbor; they’re looking at you. Although children are the most prevalent observers and arguably the most influenced, your role modeling doesn’t stop with them. It’s available to anyone you interact with regularly. Through the behavior you exhibit, you announce what you believe is acceptable.
Those who admire you, trust you, or want to learn from you are paying attention and processing what you do or what you don’t do, then mimic you. Can you handle that?
This might be a good time to take a gut check and admit that you could step it up a bit in some area of your life. What personal behavior will you take responsibility for improving before it becomes a compounding bad habit?
Strengthen Your Leadership Without Becoming a Jerk
This workbook will help you clarify your leadership style, improve your goal setting, give you a new perspective on your organization’s strategy, and more.
Leadership is an ongoing learning profession. You need to practice it every day, even when you don’t feel like it. Some days will be a struggle. Some days you will screw up. When that happens, you will learn and make amends if needed.
This guide contains quick assessments and thought-provoking tools that will help you make a positive difference without becoming a jerk. You can strengthen your leadership today, available via Amazon
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It is possible to become a better leader without being a jerk. One place to start is with Leadership Workbooks a series of short yet profound workbooks created by Karl Bimshas Consulting, the leadership development and accountability firm that helps busy professionals manage better and lead well.
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Your Leadership Pulse
Periodically I check with contacts and connections to get a pulse of their current mood toward leadership. If you could answer one of the two questions below, I’d appreciate your thoughts.
- If you consider yourself a leader, why are you still leading?
- If you don’t consider yourself a leader, why not?
For more in-depth leadership health questions, visit the link below.
Thanks for your input.
Become a confident, competent leader in your field without becoming a jerk. Boston-bred and California-chilled Karl Bimshas is the leadership consultant, author, and podcast host who collaborates with busy professionals — most often those who are underestimated and underrepresented in leadership roles.