by David Perlmutter

How Successful Leaders Help Organizations Thrive

David Perlmutter: Thanks for joining Matt! Could you share a short overview of your book?

MP: Thank you for this opportunity, David. Successful Leaders Aren’t Bullies presents actual bullying cases I’ve experienced and addressed in the workplace with clients over the past twenty-six years. It empowers good leaders to choose leadership and to understand the benefits of leading with healthy behaviors and to intervene and to stop bullying. It will inspire and mobilize bullied victims to overcome and to thrive by presenting examples of resilient and healthy individuals and organizations.


DP: What do you think inspires people to follow a successful leader, and does this relate to sales? 

MP: Absolutely it relates to sales! It’s all about trust, the greatest interpersonal motivator. Trust grows when a vulnerable person feels protected from injury or harm. Leaders also build trust when their actions align with promises and when their behaviors reflect constituent shared and expressed values and beliefs. People are willing to listen and take action when they know a leader’s direction will keep them safe. The greatest leaders change attitudes and perspectives. They open minds. This requires people to suspend mental models and perceptions and to listen to learn about possibilities. Trust is the critical trait needed to gain this followership, and to close high end deals.


DP: Can you share a bit more about how to influence a decision in a deal? 

MP: Trustworthiness is most influenced by, in order of impact, what people see, how they hear, and what they learn from a leader’s message. People forget what leaders say or do, but they always remember how a leader makes them feel. 80% of a purchasing decision is based on emotion. They remember stories and actions proving a leader displays what, according to Gallop, constituents in America want their leaders to be; honest, competent, inspiring, forward thinking, and fair minded. If constituents trust a leader, or account executive, they are willing to take action, and close.


DP: I totally agree. However, in some negotiations, results take precedence over relationships. Trust can be undermined by aggressiveness and bullying. To clarify, what is bullying and what do you suggest people do with a boss or co-worker or client who acts this way?

MP: Workplace bullying involves repeated, intentional, aggressive comments or acts intended to create a power difference (btw, this approach is celebrated and rewarded in athletics) between the bully and the target. The goal in all bullying is to gain power and control, or compliance, so a bully gets their way via fear, intimidation, sabotage, guerilla warfare, or manipulation. If the bully gets what they want with these unhealthy efforts, it’s rewarded, and it will be repeated.

A few years ago, I read, and chuckled, about an article entitled, “Negotiating with a Bullying Boss.” Bully’s don’t negotiate. If you have a boss or co-worker or client who is a bully, and you’d like to see the behavior stop, owners or board members or executives must be willing to listen to help change the behavior. The best way to address bullying is to make a business case showing how higher returns are realized when all parties practice healthy behaviors compared to overtly aggressive bullying. Bullying extracts huge costs in terms of turnover, absenteeism, stress, lost productivity, accidents, violence, lost business, broken relationships, and ill will.

The BEST and most talented employees are often targeted. Bullying behavior is driven by a lack of competence or a fear this incompetence will be exposed. Uber talented employees trigger this incompetence and unintentionally release the bully’s wrath. All this destructive energy and nonsense is driven by a bully’s distorted and warped ego. For their own health and well-being, people who, despite a bully’s best efforts, maintain their self-respect and self-esteem, yet find no institutional support and recourse to address bullies, leave to work for a successful employer whose values, beliefs, and behaviors align more with their own. It’s unhealthy for targets to stay, but some find it very difficult to break away.


DP: Is bullying illegal?

MP: Per se, it is not. However, in many cases, bullying does constitute harassment or discrimination and these actions are illegal and I have seen justice served best when targets file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Human Rights Commission. There is a current, national, movement to make workplace bullying illegal. Fire at will laws embolden bullies and bullying organizations. To generate power through fear, I have seen bullies remind new hires in orientation they are employed at will and can be terminated at any time. This undermines trust, the critical ingredient, as mentioned, in high performance cultures.


DP: How can people identify healthy organizations and leaders, to prevent themselves from working for bullies?

MP: Successful leaders tend to be honest, selfless, self-critical and tough. They set high standards and allow their charges to achieve them with support and resources. They go to bat for their workers instead of batting them with insults and criticism, as do bullies. Successful leaders sell, rather than tell. They develop everyone in the organization to a point of competence and confidence, so everyone learns, and is eager, to make the best urgent and important decisions.

Successful leaders appreciate the significant costs resulting from workplace bullying vs. the higher returns realized in thriving organizations. They assure anti-bullying policies and consequences exist, so everyone is encouraged, able, and allowed to identify, addresses, prevent, and transcend bullying behaviors. They measure relationships and conduct with the same voracity as they measure financial results.


DP: Is bullying more prevalent in certain industries?

MP: Bullying can be found in all organizations. Research shows it is most common in male dominated manufacturing industries. Also, very competitive and stressful workplaces like investment banking, law, medicine, commercial real estate, in executive suites, and high-end sales where individual performers and rainmakers are incented with significant rewards, continue to breed what I characterize “problem children.” Like gifted athletes with great talents and productivity and connections and protections, these high performing, yet problematic, employees are held to lower ethical and behavioral standards; like show dogs who bite. Eventually, the biting will put them down, but the pain and destruction they incur is debilitating.


DP: Most of these industries are, historically, male dominated. Is it fair to assume women who enter these industries are more likely to be bullied and, if so, what do you recommend?

MP: I’m not sure it is fair to assume women entering these industries are more prone to being bullied. With the current, amplified, awareness of high-profile sexual harassment and discrimination cases, my hope is women new hires experience a welcoming, equitable, and professional environment. If a female does experience discriminating and bullying behaviors, the above options should help to identify and address the issue. If not, she may contact you, or me.

Successful leadership, and bullying, has no gender or affinity boundaries. I’ve seen great female and male leaders operate, and openly embraced, in all industries. What distinguishes the ones who thrive is their capacity to build trust with authenticity, transparency, and, with what contradicts most writing about women who succeed in leading men, vulnerability. This doesn’t mean it’s ok to share one’s deepest secrets at work. Asking for help, admitting weaknesses, acknowledging mistakes while also expressing one’s talents allows a person to be embraced as human. Too many times I’ve seen female, and male, bosses fail miserably by trying to mimic a role not natural for them, or thinking they need to be perceived as a hard ass to succeed.

QuantumListing will be hosting Matt Paknis on its webinar on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019 at 3:00 pm EDT. Click HERE to register to participate in the webinar or to receive the video replay.

We will also be posting the second part of the interview with Matt next week. Stay tuned for that!

Buy Successful Leaders Aren’t Bullies on Amazon now.