Tag Archives: Leadership

Abusive Leadership?

Abuse me?


Why did I cough up $125.00 for The Bass Handbook of Leadership?

My graduate professors insisted the book was the last word… now I have a 10-pound, 1,500-page book that may be incomplete.

People talk about leadership every day. They throw the word out there and accept it from others as if we were really communicating an exact meaning. But there are literally thousands of definitions of leadership.

Is leadership a personality trait or a behavior, an attribution, the foci of a group process, a symbol, a maker of meaning, a thought, a purposeful or persuasive action, the initiation of structure, the exercise of influence or a discretionary influence? Are leaders born or made?

A new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology examines a little discussed negative aspect of the oh-so-admired-and-researched topic – Abusive Leadership.

The study examined the impacts of verbal abuse and demeaning emails of team leaders in leader-follower dyads (YES, I actually used the word DYAD, I paid a lot of money for grad school and learned several words I can’t seem use anywhere but Scrabble).

Basically, they studied what happens when a bad boss is mean to a subordinate and how the behavior impacts the broader team.

The study was conducted in China and the findings were replicated in the USA.


  1. As you might have guessed, abused employees felt demoralized and undervalued and their productivity decreased,
  2. Surprisingly, cases of abuse correlated with higher levels of team conflict and lower productivity across the team unit.


Traditional interventions into workplace abuse generally focused on the affected parties (the abuser and the abused). This study suggests that we may want to address the impacts of the abuse across the entire team unit.

Luckily, none of us has ever had to work for one of THOSE leaders.

Fortune Cookie Bottom-Line:

When your bad boss is a bully and zaps all of your steam, remember this study and turn to your team.

Source: Crystal I. C. Farh, Zhijun Chen. Beyond the Individual Victim: Multilevel Consequences of Abusive Supervision in Teams. Journal of Applied Psychology, 2014; DOI: 10.1037/a0037636

Are you talking to me? … Why the sound of your voice matters

Hardcore politico, long viewed as a hardened authoritarian, suffers a stroke.
His voice and intonation were changed forever.
He quickly went from being considered authoritarian by his party’s followers to compassionate.

The question is…WHY?


  1. Researchers at the University of California looked at the vocal presence of charisma across different cultures and found that people who spoke in certain ways (low fundamental rate of vocal fold vibration) were more likely to be perceived as dominant.
  2. Conversely, findings indicated that people who spoke with a high fundamental rate of vocal fold vibration (think Urkel from that old TV show Family Matters) were viewed as submissive.
  3. Interestingly, this is also seen in non-human primates as well…
Want to be a charismatic leader, there’s lots to do… but when it comes to how you communicate verbally, it’s one part biology, one part use of language.Looks like the legendary actress Deborah Kerr knew what she was doing when she taught Yul Brenner how to “speak properly” in the King And I.  He brought the low fundamental rate of vocal fold vibration and she brought the culture.Bottom line: It’s not just that “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain,” it’s how you say it…

Happy Halloween!

Source: http://www.newswise.com/articles/the-science-of-charismatic-voices

Group Opinion and Personal Judgment

  1. New research out of China suggests that if people know what the average opinion on a given subject is, they will change their personal opinion to be closer to the average opinion
  2. They will do this even if there is no social pressure to hold an opinion similar to the average opinion
  3. Interestingly, this effect only lasts for 3 days or so—after that people tend to revert back to their original opinion
Source: Y. Huang, K. M. Kendrick, R. Yu. Conformity to the Opinions of Other People Lasts for No More Than 3 Days. Psychological Science, 2014

Experts: Born or Made?

  1. Most people believe that “experts” are made, the product of deliberate practice rather than born out of innate ability (think Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule for his 2008 book Outliers).
  2. A new Princeton University study suggests the amount of practice accumulated over time does not seem to play as big of a role as originally thought in terms of skills, capabilities or performance.
  3. The study did show a positive relationship between practice and performance, but practice only accounted for about 12% of individual differences.
What do you take away from this finding?While practice may be a lesser component of success–12% can be a game changer.  The difference between winning a gold medal in downhill skiing and coming in well off the podium may only be fractions of a second. The difference between winning the Green Jacket in golf and placing well into the pack, may only be a few strokes.Your call…does practice make perfect or is it just wasted effort?

Source: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/becoming-an-expert-takes-more-than-practice.html?utm_source=pressrelease&utm_medium=eureka&utm_campaign=expertisepractice

Performance and Work Environment

  1. Attempts to change the social or physical workplace environment do have positive effects on work-related outcomes
  2. Changes to the social environment seem to lead to better work performance
  3. Changes in the physical environment seem to help workers concentrate

Source: Effectiveness of a Combined Social and Physical Environmental Intervention on Presenteeism, Absenteeism, Work Performance, and Work Engagement in Office Employees. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2014

Some rules of thumb I live by

  1. People are the key to professional, personal and social success
  2. Relationships are a choice
  3. Articulate what you want
  4. Engage with people in mutual support for mutual success
  5. Generosity and service to others is the starting point for outreach
  6. Keep a lifeline group to hold you accountable
  7. Be willing to regularly take a vulnerable look at yourself
  8. Work your plan to reach out to others
  9. Relationships aren’t a set of activities; they are a lifestyle
  10. You have a duty to be a teacher, not just a pupil