All Hail the Org Chart?

Something about your boss doesn't sit well. He often interrupts. He doesn't listen to your ideas, preferring to focus on and explain his own thoughts during meetings. He throws his title around for leverage in conversations with others. He doesn't ask your opinion .... ever.

Working with him feels non-collaborative. It feels tricky, like you aren't sure what actions will be rewarded or punished. You tip toe around certain topics, worried that doing the wrong thing could mean a bad performance review or a knock on your bonus.

Is it better to be feared or loved? Your boss has chosen fear.

It's called leading with dominance (The Harvard Business Review has a great article on it) and it looks like:

A "my way or the highway" attitude. A dominant leader expects others to be on board with his idea simply because of his title. He does not like being challenged, even if it's in a simple meeting like a brainstorming session.

Surprise consequences. Didn't realize that sending an email to your manager's peers (or boss) without running it by him first was an issue? Welcome to the unwritten rules that dominant leaders put into place (and change) whenever they want. It keeps everyone in line.

The silent treatment. This can come in two forms, the first being withholding information so that he can feel more powerful. The other is a form of punishment, where he doesn't talk to you because of something you've done.

Little to no face time unless you're needed. Everything the dominant leader is doing is more important than what you're doing. So emails go unanswered, your drive-by questions are met with an annoyed face like you're interrupting, and 1:1 meetings are frequently cancelled.

Dominant leaders stifle growth. They rarely assign stretch goals or coach employees to develop certain skills because they don't focus on others - they focus on themselves. When delegating, they don't check in to make sure the employee understands what to do. They take all the credit when they can, and it's rare to see them going out of their way to say thank you to an employee or the team, because that could make it look like they didn't play the most important role in the project. Plus, they're probably too busy.

This dominance comes from a place of unworthiness, where the leader feels that he has to show power to prove he deserves the title. It comes from shame, where not looking smarter than everyone on the team (or anyone below him on the org chart) feels like a punishment. It comes from fear. So in turn, he leads with fear. It's all he knows.