Jerk-in-a-Box Leadership

Hey Jerk-in-a box leader, here’s a notice for you:

“I am an adult. Please don’t treat me like a child. You’ll be much more effective…”

As a leader, when you are prepared to direct your team, make sure you take the time to inspire them and not talk-down to them. Leaders should inspire their team no matter what their age. For context, I am 30-something-years old and have seen senior leaders treat their people like children when they speak to them. This is unbecoming, distracting, and ineffective. When leading grown-ups, refrain from talking to your team like children. And you won’t be called a jerk (or jerkette) behind your back.

Like when you hear something like this:

“I am sure you understand that we cannot have that sort of behavior on our staff.” or…

“In the future, let’s try to be more positive with the way we present those ideas, OK?”



I am sitting on the couch at my house and my father and step-mother are looking at me. I hate this…  they tell me things I already know… I get so frustrated!

What my parents do not understand in this situation is this: I am choosing not to listen or make bad choices because I AM 15!  I am not capable of applied, prolonged focus and short of hitting me with a board, words are all my parents have to help correct my faults.


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I am now in my 30s and I am so very tired of being talked to like a kid. I have been the youngest person in the room most of my life. It comes with the territory of being a person who gravitates towards leadership. I know I am not the only person who has been in a position where their boss has talked to them like a child. I am not sure I won’t be the last.  But what I will say is that I hope I do not talk to my team like children.

For managers and leaders looking to find a root cause of “down-talk,” I would say that a majority of issues come from ineffective or incompetent leadershipDoug Noll cites that, “65 percent of the managers and leaders (in Corporate America) are incompetent, defective, or badly flawed.”

Wow…  Who isn’t broken??

The point is that if you survey most people, they would say that their boss is not perfect.  If you, as a manager, understand your weaknesses and come to terms with them, the insight will give you more courage to act as a leader and not try to compensate for your shortfalls.  According to, Leaders “…will always have better skills in some areas than others.  Sometimes the very habits or attitudes that have allowed us to succeed in one situation can become a weakness in a different situation”.

Once you understand where you may get defensive or have a need to shore up your skills, you can move forward with more confidence.  Confidence will spark in you a need to direct.  As a leader, when you are prepared to direct your team, make sure you take the time to inspire them and not talk-down to them.  You do not want to spring out of a box and act in a way that lessens your influence with your audience. Try something better. Try to be the kind of leader that inspires others.  Look at the word ‘inspire’.  The breaks down the etymology of the word  like this:  In + Spirare – to breathe, conveying the idea of motion or direction.

To direct with your breath-  to breathe into someone a direction.  We as humans make a huge deal about our breath.  About someone’s last breath, wasting our breath or a breath of fresh air… As leaders, we should understand that every breath we give to our team should be about direction- INSPIRATION.

3 Take-Aways:

  • We are all adults – treat everyone like adults
  • YOU may be the problem- understand your weaknesses
  • Inspire – breathe direction into your team
  • Just remember the next time  you are talking to a team member or your group and you need to give direction or criticism, be inspirational not someone’s dad.  We all have fathers and mothers, or certainly understand the concept.  No one ever succeeded in life because of what their folks told them- it was how their parents inspired themnurtured them and lead them by example.

    How do you treat the people on your team? Have you ever thought that you might be speaking in a condescending way? Have you ever asked your team if your tone, mannerisms, or inflections have taken away from you message?What are you doing to be more inspirational with your team? I would love to hear!

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    Andrew P. Moore
    is Volunteer at Community of Faith
    He can be reached at

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    3 responses to “Jerk-in-a-Box Leadership

    1. Thanks for sharing. I guess depending how one behaves at home and going through in his life. I know one boss who is like an Angel at home , nice daddy and nice hubby, but whenever he is in the office, he is like a lion or a devil wears prada ! Isn’t that strange ? Anyway, thanks for your article, and more importantly for all of us not to behave like one.

    2. Great article, Andrew! I have experienced this as well. I think part of the answer is for leaders to be brave about having to confront problems so they don’t revert to passive-aggressive, parent-to-child behavior. I also think that being honest and forthright, not indirect, goes a long way towards treating other adults like adults.

      Thanks for a great blog!


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