[July 31, 2021] No matter who you are, what you do, where you go, you will be called names as a way to make you appear less intelligent, less handsome, or less popular. Frankly, if you care, you will never be a great leader. Letting your emotions dominate your thinking inevitably hinders your actions and decision-making abilities. But, that is not all.
Sure, leaders with thick skins fair better than others. We’re all familiar with this tidbit of information, and I’m sure we generally ignore name-calling. But, not all those who use this sophomoric tactic are without considerable smarts. Therefore, ignoring name-calling is sometimes a bad idea.
Recall the primary during the Republican Party’s debates. Candidate Donald Trump used name-calling as a sly yet straightforward way of effectively labeling his opponents as lazy, inept, and privileged. Surprisingly, it worked. The negative labels stuck and played a part in the ultimate defeat of Trump’s opponents. Like Candidate Trump’s name-calling, it can be an effective way to attack one’s opponents.
To be called names is a form of betrayal, the worst of all human “sins.” Words do mean something, and despite our childhood guidance that “names will never harm me,” name-calling can do harm in the form of destroying trust.
So, what’s a leader to do? You are gonna be called names; it comes with the territory. A good leader is aware of his environment, the dynamics of his organization and mission complexity. What we don’t do, or at least shouldn’t do, is ignore something that might be brushed off without a thought. Running away from the problem is also not an adequate long-term strategy.
Solutions can be found anywhere. I have found that the best thing is to confront that person directly, politely. Use self-effacing humor to turn the situation around. I don’t recommend name-calling as a response, but use their words as a testament to your good nature and trustworthiness.
Remember the reaction of Trump’s opponents during the Republican debates? They bristled at the names they were called, exposing their emotional side. Their anger was apparent, and we all saw that it made them less of a leader. Instead of showing we are like a child being called a name, act like an adult. Smile, say little, but be there and do not run away.