Tiger Mike’s memos were, uhm, memorable. Do yourself a favor on click on over if you haven’t seen them already. These directives, full of threats, hyperbole, and cuss words were his best attempt at “make it happen” leadership. They may not have actually worked, or maybe his strategy was wrong, because Tiger Oil went bankrupt in the 80s. But he could sure get his point across – with flare! And drama! And some action, damn it!
The thing is, Tiger Mike most likely didn’t see himself as a bully at all. He most likely would have been shocked by the play his memos are getting now. Pugilistic and direct, maybe, but what entrepreneur doesn’t have to fight to get what they want? He truly believed that writing these memos were a good use of his time. He apparently saw himself as the misunderstood victim of his powerful staff, who took his money but didn’t always do what he wanted. He was lost in feeling outnumbered and powerless - most likely with no concept that he was contributing to the problem.
We’re no better than Tiger Mike, really. We just usually have better filters. We’re all stressed these days, trying to do everything perfectly, or reach too many goals in too few hours. We have moments when we feel isolated, one-down, unpowerful, or without voice, so we pound on the table. Or say something catty. Or pull a harmless prank. And in doing so, we get attention, and that mollifies for a moment.
But the fact is, when we give in to the snarky comment, yell, undercut, or use our positions to harm others, we lose. Because we’re telling the world that we feel insecure, have failed in our leadership, and that we are weak. We give away our power when we act out of feeling powerless. And we look like bullies even though we’d never apply that term to ourselves.
So what is there to do?
- Recognize when you’re feeling powerless, outnumbered, one-down.
- Connect with your power. This may be through talking to a friend, thinking about recent successes, or just flat getting out of the situation where you feel victimized for a minute or two to recollect yourself.
- Recognize that nobody’s perfect, including you (and me). Then try to extend the same empathy you have for yourself back to the person you were about to snark on, yell at, or prank.
- Speak up when you see someone trying to get their way through fear, sarcasm, or intemperate display of emotion.
You’re bigger than that.