Being a Jerk as a Leader- Why it is Effective

Virtually all of us leaders want to be liked. After all, who wants to be called a jerk?  So why would we want to be called a jerk?  Is it that effective?

Well . . . maybe if we want to be successful and highly profitable.

Consider these names:

Steve Jobs – as one of the founders of Apple, he is one of the most famous – or infamous – organization leaders who acted like a real jerk. He was capable of ripping employees in front of others, being ruthless to his executives, and completely absorbed in himself. Nevertheless, he is considered a marketing genius who was the best and most effective at his craft. See more about how Steve Jobs was exceptionally difficult to deal with.

General George Patton – this famous World War II general was exceptionally tough and mean, but fiercely loved by those who served under him. He was famous for his profanity-laced tirades, and was highly difficult to deal with. His fierce approach to keep his troops moving forward in the war, however, was an effective force for the American forces’ success. Read more about Gen. Patton’s highly complex personality.

Elon Musk – as the leader of Tesla and the founder of SpaceX, Musk is a highly driven, very complex leader.  Musk is famous for 100-hour work weeks and driving his employees to maintain his pace. He is infamous for berating his employees for not achieving the extreme results he expects. Yet, there is no doubt that his organizations have maintained effective results and continue to do so. Read more about Musk’s personality and performance expectations.

So what can we learn from these three leaders?

They drive themselves to extremely high standards.

A leadership principle applies here: don’t ask from others what you are not willing to do yourself. With these “jerk” leaders, they set the pace and demand extremely high results from themselves. No one can say that these people are lazy. They work a lot of hours. Within those long hours, they are able to push themselves to exceptional performance levels.

They drive their teams to extremely high standards.

Because of their knowledge of hard work, strong results and high expectations, they get things done at a high level. They expect their teams to match their pace and to perform at their high levels. Substandard results are not only unacceptable – they’ll humiliate team members, disrespect them and fire them in an extremely terrible way.

As a result of their leadership demands, they achieved results that are exceptional.

As these leaders and their teams maintain a torrid pace, their focus narrows on the successful strategies and results. These leaders may push their teams hard, but the results are exceptional. Ironically, those team members who love the challenge also tend to love the opportunity to work with these leaders. It’s a “love-hate” relationship, but it’s notable that there are many team members who wouldn’t want it any other way.

Here are some take-away points that we should consider:

Push ourselves hard.

As leaders, no one should care about the organization’s performance like we should. We need to set the pace and to be looking for ways to increase the pace. It’s important for us to be clear on what we are trying to accomplish and to maintain laser-sharp focus.

Push our teams hard.

Allowing our teams to maintain average results means that we aren’t going to be exceptional. If we want to be about high levels of success, we need to demand the best from our teams. Top-notch professionals like challenges. Top-notch professionals want to work with other top-notch professionals who are all about high levels of success. You might not see high levels of profanity as being acceptable forms of motivating your team, but you definitely can demand the best.

Commit to the highest levels of success.

You have to know what the best results look like, and to work relentlessly to achieve them. If you’re going to push your team to be the best, you need to know what you need to achieve to get them. Define what will get you where you need to be, and work like mad to get there.

The bottom line: being a jerk as a leader works.

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