With the feminization of our culture I think we're losing an appreciation for some of the male-oriented social skills that have helped propel Western civilization to the dominant world position we presently enjoy; perhaps chief among those skills is the art of intimidation. (That's a pay link, but I recommend reading the whole article.) Everywhere you turn is another fuzzy feel-good message about how we all need to be nice and get along, but the fact of the matter is that male-dominated social structures naturally coalesce around strong leaders, and strong leaders rely on intimidation to drive their followers. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Zander and Weinstein are examples of what I call great intimidators. They are not averse to causing a ruckus, nor are they above using a few public whippings and ceremonial hangings to get attention. And they’re in good company.A list of great intimidators would read a bit like a business leadership hall of fame: Sandy Weill, Rupert Murdoch, Andy Grove, Carly Fiorina, Larry Ellison, and Steve Jobs would be just a few of the names on it. These leaders seem to relish the chaos they create because, in their minds, it’s constructive. Time is short, the stakes are high, and the measures required are draconian.
But make no mistake – the great intimidators are not your typical bullies. If you’re just a bully, it’s all about humiliating others in an effort to make yourself feel good. Something very different is going on with the great intimidators. To be sure, they aren’t above engaging in a little bullying to get their way.With them, however, the motivating factor isn’t ego or gratuitous humiliation; it’s vision. The great intimidators see a possible path through the thicket, and they’re impatient to clear it. They chafe at impediments, even those that are human. They don’t suffer from doubt or timidity. They’ve got a disdain for constraints imposed by others.
The modus operandi of great intimidators runs counter to a lot of our most deeply entrenched preconceptions about what it means to be a good leader these days. We’ve all read the books and articles describing people who lead quietly and with great empathy and humility. But as you’ll see, the leaders I’ve been studying think and work in an entirely different way: They’re rough, loud, and in your face.
Beneath their tough exteriors and sharp edges, however, are some genuine, deep insights into human motivation and organizational behavior. Indeed, these leaders possess what I call political intelligence, a distinctive and powerful form of leader intelligence that’s been largely ignored by management theorists and practitioners. In all our recent enchantment with social intelligence and soft power, we’ve overlooked the kinds of skills leaders need to bring about transformation in cases of tremendous resistance or inertia. It’s precisely in such situations, I’d like to propose, that the political intelligence of the intimidating leader is called for.
The article expresses in very clear terms a concept I started to recognize in my later years of high school. Intimidating behavior doesn't come naturally to me, but I've tried to develop my abilities in this area and have found that a little bit of intimidation applied at the right time can often work wonders in business and social relationships. The flip side is that once you learn to use the power of intimidation it's very hard not to apply it in situations where it's not appropriate, such as on friends and family.
I also would never want to be (or be perceived to be) a bully, so that undermines my utilization of intimidation techniques. Most of the time I'd rather stay friends than make every effort to push a group towards an efficient or productive end, so intimidation certainly isn't the only tool in my social toolbox. Being an effective leader in a family, church, or group of friends where the primary reward to the group members is a positive social interaction is a much more difficult balancing act than leading a business that's paying its employees to get some job done. I'm far from perfect at this (as my wife will attest) but I'm working very hard to increase my experience.