In the most recent season of American Idol, the absence of Simon Cowell spoke volumes. Jennifer Lopez has a high likeability and cuteness index, Steven Tyler is awesome for his wild and unstructured approach and Randy, well, he’s Randy. And the problem was that they were thought to be “too nice.” This niceness caused confusion among the audience because they suddenly didn’t know how to pick a winner. No one was leading them. As for Simon, well he was widely known for his rude and brutal honesty. But viewers knew his stance and looked to him for leadership – even as they may have resented it. As it turns out, in the world of business, fair bosses are not as well respected as tough ones. Research discussed in the Harvard Business review showed that even in a lab setting, subjects preferred to work with the boss who delivered news in a rude tone rather than the one who exhibited more fairness.
Leadership is about not being afraid to make tough choices and especially, not being afraid to communicate those choices. Of course people love and respect the fair bosses. They probably are more likely to buy presents for them, but these same people pay attention to the tough, rude ones. However, all is not so cut and tried in the world of business leadership. Rudeness can only take you to a limited destination before resentment sets in. A fair boss who also has a good moral compass and a penchant for ethics ultimately wins over the team. This is because humans everywhere want to be valued and respected, and rudeness gets old quickly. So the moral of the story is to lead with toughness but be nice at your core. It’s always about the candy.
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