Bullying! Is This The New World Of Leadership?

Adrian Cropley

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Adrian Cropley

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Bullying! Is this the new world of leadership?

It’s disturbing. Bullying in the workplace is the focus of increased news coverage and stories, particularly from leaders in private and government sectors, including world leader bully-like behaviour toward other countries and cultures. We seem to be living in a world where the basics of humanity are taking a step back to power, control and profits. Even five years ago, I would never have thought we would be so heavily discussing or accepting, a world of false truths and alternative facts which erode trust in just about everyone.

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer talks about trust as being in crisis, in governments, media, experts, business and our leaders within these entities. However, the issue of trust in leaders is compounded by fear of being bullied or victimised. Only recently I read reports about bullying within the Australian Olympic Committee and the American White House. Even worse is seeing the workplace cultures take on that behaviour and completely mimic that person.

Let’s face it, how many perpetrators of abuse were abused themselves? I remember one manager I worked for when I was first starting out saying, “Trust me, if my ass gets kicked for this, I will kick yours harder.” Inspired leadership alright!

We all have similar stories to share, which is sad, however this recent trend towards bullying by those in power, our leaders, will have a counterproductive effect over the long term, so let’s remind our leaders about a few important basics:

1. Listen more than talk

Leaders should first seek to understand their people, their motivations and style. Everyone is different and as leaders, we need to adapt our style to get the best out people.

2. Be a role model and inspire

You set the scene. What you do and how you do it inspires others to do the same.

3. Treat people how you would want to be treated

This may be your grandmother’s advice, but it is wise advice nonetheless.

4. Simply don’t be a bully

There is no reason, no excuse nor strategy that requires you to abuse another human being.

I think it’s time we remember to have humanity. Building better relationships and taking care to use our leadership role in a more positive, caring way, will help people rise above the current environment and re-establish trust in leaders and their organisation.


Adrian Cropley OAM, FRSA, SCMP, is the founder and CEO of Cropley Communication and the Centre for Strategic Communication Excellence. With a career spanning over 30 years, he has worked for and advised CEOs and communication leaders globally, including many Fortune 500 companies, on strategic communication and change, as well as building training offerings targeted to communication professionals. He led the development of IABC’s Career Road Map, kick-started the global ISO certification process for the profession, and was the founding chair of the IABC Academy.