Great Leaders are NOT Divisive Figures

By | October 30, 2018

[October 30, 2018]  Divide and conquer is an old piece of military advice.  If you want to win at war, be prepared to divide your enemy and attack them piecemeal in battle.  That, however, does not work when leaders are divisive; which is what the tactic of divide and conquer is about.

By being divisive, there may be some short-term gain when running for political office but the longer-term damaging effects are lasting and can be unpredictable.  Take for example the vitriolic rhetoric coming from prominent politicians in the United States.

Many U.S. politicians now advocate for confrontation and painting opponents as “evil.”  This is especially true of U.S. Representative Maxine Waters1 and past U.S. DOJ Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr.2  Both have made it clear that their political opponents are evil people and should be “confronted” or “we kick ‘em” whenever you meet them.  Their words resonate.

In both examples, there has been little pushback on their calls for thinly-veiled violence.  And they are not the only ones and it is not restricted to the Democratic Party.  We see it worse in the presidential elections just completed in the country of Brazil.  It looks like they have copied divisive U.S. leadership.

There is no doubt that the words and actions of leaders will be taken out of context, exaggerated, or ignored to justify any behavior.  That is why it is of the utmost importance that leaders are clear in what they say so that their words are not mistaken.  Neither Waters nor Holder have done this and thus show that they lack the character needed to be a true leader.

Five years ago I wrote about how Americans were dissatisfied with the U.S. government.  The number one reason was “polarizing rhetoric.”  Nothing has changed since then.  Politicians, like all leaders, are subject to the same characteristics and standards that any other leader would have to measure up to. Great leaders bring people together to achieve a common goal.

Uniting people is the hallmark of great leadership and it has never changed and never will.  Polarizing leaders will never be great and it is only a matter of time before their downfall.


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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

27 thoughts on “Great Leaders are NOT Divisive Figures

  1. Shawn C. Stolarz

    Thanks. Current problem address here with politicians and uneducated young leaders. Appreciate the analysis.

  2. Greg Heyman

    Politicians may be the most obvious leaders who act for personal gain thru the use of divisiveness. Others do the same as alluded to by some of the commentators below. Retail is one that was mentioned. Others too in companies that pay low wages and hire mostly young people are also likely to have this problem.

  3. Kenny Foster

    You would think this topic is common sense but after having worked for over 20 years in some of the worst places possible (retail), I can say that it continues. Young people today truly lack any leadership skills.

  4. Andrew Dooley

    I too had a boss for a brief one year that played the “insiders” against the “outsiders” to keep us employees off balance and focused on ourselves rather than his poor leadership. Our team underperformed and eventually was broken up. I was so happy.

  5. Bryan Lee

    Yes, good article on a subject that is most relevant today with all the activity in Brazil, Germany, and the US.

  6. Dennis Mathes

    I spent 15 years in a major company located in New York City that had some middle managers who were very divisive. This is how they gained and kept their power. They had the ability to hire and fire anyone they wanted and at any time. I was extremely happy to finally find a decent job in downtown area where my boss was exactly the opposite.

    1. Wilson Cox

      This is common when you work in a large department store that hires people at low wages and expects the best to rise to the top.

    2. Willie Shrumburger

      Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure you don’t want to mention the company’s name. There are several like that throughout NYC and I am happy I moved to Texas where the people were far better.

  7. Mike Baker

    I believe that anyone who uses divisiveness has a serious character flaw. They can still be a leader, like Maxine Waters, but they are not good people and they are leading many individuals who listen to them down a path of personal destruction.

    1. Big Al

      Yes, indeed, it is a major character flaw, especially if used all the time.

  8. Dale Paul Fox

    Thoughtful and a little provocative. Divisiveness, I am sad to write, is the main trait of most politicians. It is, however, not for others who turn out to be truly great leaders. It is one thing to argue your point that your thinking is the best way for success but to call your opponents “evil” when they are clearly not evil, is problem of character.

  9. Janna Faulkner

    Great article today, Gen. Satterfield. Thanks. I would like to see you elaborate a little on this in the future.

  10. Army Captain

    I believe you are correct but this applies only to most leaders like those in the military or commercial businesses. Like Max has noted, it might not be for politicians.

  11. Max Foster

    It seems to me that this is exactly what politicians do to make themselves known to everyone. Being divisive is what gets them elected so it works.

    1. Martin Shiell

      Good point, Max. I think you have hit onto something here. But, in the end, Gen. Satterfield is correct when he writes that great leaders are only great when they unite people.

    2. Georgie M.

      Divisiveness works for some leaders in some circumstances. So I do agree with you mostly. On the other hand, I believe deeply that it doesn’t work most of the time.

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