This is not leadership. It makes people think it is and that’s part of why we have poor leaders, part 1

“You don’t understand me!”
“I wish I’d never been born!”
Who hasn’t yelled something like that at their parents? I’m sure I did. I argued with my parents like all kids. I’ve grown since then and don’t argue like that any more. I still disagree, I just try more to seek understanding, not to confront so adversarially.
I was just in a line and overheard two workers argue. They weren’t yelling, but they weren’t getting anywhere near resolving their conflict. They were adults but as best I could tell hadn’t grown past a juvenile way of dramatizing conflict, trying to win instead of understanding and resolving things.
Their model for resolving conflict seemed something like

  • Intensify your emotions more than the other person
  • Talk more than the other person
  • Talk louder than the other person
  • Make the other person understand you
  • Don’t listen or try to understand the other person
  • Interrupt
  • Win and make the other person lose

I can understand why children would behave like that. Why would adults? I’ve never seen behavior like that lead to understanding and agreement in anyone I know.
One major contribution to why adults would behave that way is that they’ve seen fictional people win disputes that way many times. I have never seen or heard of leadership like that working, yet it’s the standard we show culturally.
While no one would confuse this scene in a drama—Zero Dark Thirty—for instruction on how to lead, it illustrates a scene we’ve seen in countless movies and TV shows. According to Wikipedia, the movie “received wide critical acclaim, and appeared on 95 critics’ top ten lists of 2012. It was nominated in five categories at the 85th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.”
I believe this scene illustrates each of the bulleted points above. I also believe no scene like this ever happened so dramatically in outside television and movies. It looks like a fourteen-year-old’s fantasy of a confrontation. Sadly, it influences people.

Actually, they don’t interrupt each other, which, I guess, would make it harder to watch.
I can think of few counterexamples in popular media of how people effectively led effectively (can anyone else?). One example I can think of is the movie Thirteen Days, about the Cuban Missile Crisis. According to Wikipedia, “The film was a box office bomb,” though I’ve watched it many times after a professor of mine at used it in a leadership class at Columbia Business School.

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