By now most Americans have heard Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke. Regardless of your political persuasion, and whether or not you agree some of the time with his opinions, his behavior and comments toward Ms. Fluke are those of a bully.
The leadership lesson this raises for me is two-fold.
First, how to recognize bully behavior in ourselves and others, and, second, what to do about it. Whether you are being bullied by a leader yourself, leading a bully on your team, watching a peer get bullied, or occasionally exhibiting bully behavior, it is a difficult situation indeed.
Before I address these two points, I'd like to make a comment. A personal aside about whether or not Rush Limbaugh’s bully behavior should be taken seriously.
I am an independent or undeclared voter and look at the merits of each candidate every election. In the early 1990s because I was in a car often when Rush was on the radio, I used to listen to him. To me he was just an entertainer who was very articulate and made many cogent points. That’s it. When he would occasionally fall into the stupid pit and say something crazy, I ignored it as just entertainment. Some of my friends and family were surprised I listened to him and suggested I look at him and his leadership more thoughtfully. I read many balanced reviews of the man and began to see him differently. I became concerned with the increased number of his followers (“ditto heads”), who believed most of what he said and jumped into the stupid pit with him. Sadly, he doesn’t just convince followers to embrace his conservative viewpoints, he teaches them how to behave cruelly and bully others. And some of these followers now contribute substantially to the discord and divisiveness in America. I was wrong to take him lightly; he has become a good example of a bully leader.
In my next article post, I’ll discuss how to recognize bully behavior and distinguish it from leadership behavior. Then in the third and final segment on bully behavior, I’ll give the reader some tips on how to handle bullies.
Part 2 and 3 of this article will follow soon...stay tuned!