Hey Leader, Are You a Coward?

In the course of normal human behaviors, people act in a variety of ways when they are around others. Some of these ways are pleasant, comfortable, and quite logical to me.

When I see people interact with others well, I like this. And when I observe them acting in rational ways in these types of social/business situations, I have normal, sane reactions. I don’t get any sort of indigestion or nausea in any way. Again, I like this.


When people behave in ways that short-circuits logic, sanity, prudence, decorum, integrity, politeness, or the general peace and order of society, I tend to blow a fuse.

One of these ways that just gets under my skin is when people allow fear to fuel their behaviors and steer them in the direction of cowardly avoidance when times get tough. When people simply want to hide and avoid reality or things unpleasant, I just don’t understand that type of destructive behavior! After all, how selfish can one be to behave without forethought of how their action will impact others? When I see people running from the truth and leaving their fear-filled caustic footprints every where they go, it makes me want to scream!

Avoidant Behavior Drives Me Crazy!

Yes, it drives me crazy! Granted, my peers will tell you that’s a pretty short trip to crazyland to start with, but I’m just saying… YUK.   Avoidant behavior is just plain cowardly.

The Email Time Bomb

Here is an example of cowardice that you might have experienced at work: It is when you receive a scolding full-page email message from a co-worker late in the day when that person could have mentioned their deep feelings earlier to you when you were with them face-to-face. You open the venoumous email from that person with no indication from their earlier behaviors that they had any issue or problem with you. This person simply avoided the issue when you were present and waited until they felt safe to blast you.

They waited to throw their bombs from behind their office wall when they weren’t looking at you in the eyes. “Coward!” I declare!

This cowardly person simply spilled their poison on the page, packaged it in an email message time bomb, and infected your inbox with their scathing concussion grenade to blast you when they were not around. But earlier when they had to chance to speak up and tell you how they felt, they said NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING !

Same with Voice Mail

Another example of avoidance behavior is when a person will not deal with you in person, but will provide another time of time-delayed surprise on you with a long winded voice mail message waiting for you behind a blinking light. Have you ever received a two-minute voicemail that started with “Jim, I’ve told you a thousand million times…..”

Again; “Coward!” I declare!


Take the Test

Are you a coward?  Do you do those things? Take this test:

You know you might be a coward if you

Reprimand others in lengthy emails
Leave scathing messages on people’s voicemail
Discipline employees through other people
Avoid appropriately disciplining your children
Never overtly disagree with the group when you probably should

If you resemble these comments, then you’re a coward!


Recalibrate Your Behaviors

Now… here’s how NOT to be a coward and to act with Courage.  Let’s take those Five Most Cowardly Acts (MCA’s), and turn them into Courageous Leadership actions.

1)      Courageous Leaders don’t reprimand in emails.  Email with purpose, but not full disclosure.

  • Courageous email example:  Jim, an important issue has come to my attention that we need to work out together.  I have some thoughts and need your input.  Thanks.”
  • Email messages don’t reveal demeanor or intent.  Don’t even try it.
  • Reprimand in person and in private.  Leave people with their dignity.
  • Added benefit:  You’ll never get snake bitten by an inappropriate email if you DON’T WRITE THEM.

2)      Courageous Leaders don’t leave scathing voice mails.   Leave a voice mail that requests an urgent call back.

  • Have you ever sent a scathing voicemail and almost immediately wished you could retrieve it before it was heard?  You can’t take voicemail words back, so don’t leave nasty messages.
  • Courageous voicemail example:  “Jim, this is Tom.  I just received some disturbing information.  I need to sort it out with you quickly.  Please call me asap.”
  • Looking someone in the eyes will help you to temper your temper when delivering a message.

3)      Courageous Leaders don’t discipline employees through others.  If you have something to say, say it directly to the person it involves.

  • Have you ever had your words misrepresented, embellished, or downplayed?
  • Courageous discipline involves looking someone in the eye, and letting them see and hear your exact intent.  No more, no less.  Keep it private.

4)       Courageous Parents don’t create unruly children who make everyone around them miserable.

  • Let’s face it; our first responsibility to our children is to be a Parent, not just a Procreator.
  • Real Parents provide fair, but tough discipline.
  • Would you let your employees do whatever they wanted, make others around them miserable; create havoc and dissension only followed with an occasional… “…oh sweetie, please don’t do that?” or “I don’t know what I’m going to do with you”.
  • Provide your children with the training that will cause them to bring praise to you as a person, respectful of others, and a pleasure to be around.

5)      Courageous Leaders are unafraid to appropriately and constructively disagree, WITH EVERYONE at times.

  • An example of Courageous Disagreement:  “I appreciate what everyone is saying, but here’s my problem with that…”
  • Courageous Disagreement is NOT an attack, nor insulting, nor disagreeable .  It is a method of redirecting the group to an alternate viewpoint
  • It doesn’t even matter if they listen to you, or if you’re wrong
  • Get a backbone and take a risk for the sake of your self-worth!

Have you been practicing all or some of those Five Most Cowardly Acts? Would you like to start the transformation from Coward to Courage? Are you willing to being investing in your self-worth and self-esteem right now? If so, you’ll be glad to you did!

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Jim Janco
is owner and Strategist, Consultant, and Agent of Epiphany at the Encompass Group.
He can be reached at
encompassgroup@comcast.net and (303) 618-0423

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7 responses to “Hey Leader, Are You a Coward?

  1. How poignant and true Jim! We’ve all resembled the coward more often than we’d like to admit.

    Great suggestions on how to fix it.

    • Awesome! In today’s times face to face conversation is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Typing seems to be the main means of communication but I’ve found that tone and intent are totally lost this way! Not to mention how insincere this method is, especially when offering or receiving an apology via text!

  2. Great article Jim! I too strongly dislike cowardly leaders! Probably because when I am in a position to lead others, I too like to be honest and forthright, yet courteous at the same time. We should all treat others like we want to be treated! Keep up your encouraging articles! We need competent leaders like you.

  3. I have been the victim of this kind of cowardly behavior in the workplace at great cost to myself. It’s nice to hear someone echo the same thoughts that I have had. Avoiding cowardly behavior is a great way to gain self respect as well as the respect of others. Thanks Jim

  4. Great information, Jim! It is a challenge, dealing with the varied individuals and personalities that we face on a day to day basis. The pressures that we have to deal with continue to increase- It’s good information to keep in mind for best management practices. Thanks

  5. Sorry to say but the policy of many companies actually prohibits direct communication and instead require that you follow a protocol based on the company hierarchy (i.e. a Manager can only personally discuss problems with their own team members. Issues involving other members of other teams must be addressed to the Manager of that team or the ‘disturbing information”: must be taken into HR for discussion and/or mediation. Direct communication is discouraged, not encouraged – no matter what the corporate culture statement says).

    Private discussions, sadly, offer no evidence to what was actually said, or how it was said (“the presentation”). When the disturbing information discussed involves a mistake or some oversight that is in need of correction, there is a tendency for the recipient to exaggerate, embellish, slant, or skew what was said in subsequent conversations with others. Perhaps this is why direct communication is discouraged and some people prefer to “discipline” via email or in the presence of witnesses. The spoken words between two people become he said/she said. Although I agree with the idea that a direct approach is best, it is not always possible and, in some cases, may even cost you your job.

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