British journalist Jackie Ashley, writing for the Guardian newspaper (link here), warns about the dangers of “big-man, celebrity politics” and urges us to stand up to the bullies in our society.
Bullying silences dissent and dialogue
Ashley draws from British politician Alistair Dowling’s newly-published political memoir, Back from the Brink (2011), to examine the sycophantic behaviors of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s cabinet members. As I wrote last year, Brown is said to be quite the workplace bully. Ashley reports that he apparently intimidated his top lieutenants to the point where they simply went along with all his directives, instead of engaging in exchanges that “produce better decisions and help avoid worse mistakes.”
This problem reaches way beyond the politics of a single Prime Minister, and it extends into the business world as well. Ashley observes:
The people who rise to the top tend to be the scary bullies. They’re the ones with personalities so large, and self-belief so shocking, that people around them shrivel and go quiet. They promote yes-men and yes-women. Their mistakes are unchallenged.
The smarter approach, she suggests, would be “to concentrate on the merits of the arguments, and welcome the fact of the discussion.”
Ashley closes with a call to action, directed at fellow Brits:
A culture of big-man, celebrity politics, riding on the back of short-term, high-risk celebrity banking, came crashing down between 2008 and 2010, the years at the heart of Darling’s self-critical account. As a result we are in a darker, more worrying place: in politics and in business, it’s time to start standing up to the bullies.
Wise advice for those of us across the pond, as well.