I was once interviewed and asked what leader dead or alive I most admired. That is a hard question, I admire the achievement of many leaders, but how many leaders do I really admire, how many of our “famous” leaders have traits or characteristics that I would want my children to have. I drew a blank…many folks that rise to the top are assholes.
Robert Sutton, a Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford even penned a book, “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.” It is a sad reality, like you heard growing up; a bad apple spoils the bunch. So all it takes is one asshole to ruin it for everyone. There are all kinds of expressions, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and on and on, but they are all the same, it is rarely the good stuff that takes up your time every day. If you are in a position of leadership or power you are dealing with people, it could be dealing with employees or worse yet the public, either way eventually you will have to deal with an asshole. The problem is that the more you deal with assholes the more you slowly become an asshole, that is if you are not already an asshole.
At one time I owned four different businesses and had over 60 employees working for me, and when you are dealing with the public, it can become a disaster. Everyone is looking for something for nothing, everyone seems to be out to get you, and they all think you are out to get them. Managers, executives, business owners, and all leaders sometimes have to become assholes to deal with assholes, it is like fighting fire with fire. It is sad but true, but that is the world we live in.
It is kill or be killed, business is a real-life game of survival of the fittest. I grow tired of the game, I don’t enjoy dealing with assholes, and if you sit at the top you get to deal with assholes, and thus risk becoming an asshole! There are lots of good leaders in our business community that are genuinely nice guys, and I am sure that there are famous leaders out there that are good, decent people. Maybe I have just become jaded after dealing with it for so long, but it seems like we are surrounded by assholes. Know this, if you are in a room and can’t find this asshole, it’s probably you.
I almost forgot, who was the leader I chose that I most admired? I threw a curve, Tony Dungy, the former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, a great leader that did, and does it right.