The Michael Brown Effect

Please know that I am not judging the victim, the accused, or anyone else associated with the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri, but the implications of a post by an ex-police officer on Facebook speaks loudly to the effect of, not unhealthy leaders, but unhealthy employees – those doing work – in business enterprises.

The ex-police officer contends that the fact the accused police officer, Darren Wilson, did not know that Michael Brown was a suspect in a recent store robbery was inconsequential.  The key fact is that Michael Brown knew.  He contends that because Michael Brown knew of the crime (caught on video) that when confronted by an authority figure in the person of Officer Wilson, he behaved in an aggressive way as most would do if they thought they were being caught.  He offered numerous examples where this phenomenon has ended in police officer/highway patrol officer deaths.  The officers were ignorant of who they were confronting, but the people confronted were wholly aware of their previous activities and crimes.

This event had a horrible ending for all involved – especially the friends and family of Michael Brown.  A lack of respect for authority or an aggressive response thereto, often solicits a response.  Hopefully, the response is not inappropriate.

This is not dissimilar to business leaders interacting or intervening with employees in the context of work.  Very often, a business leader is thought of as heavy-handed or aggressive if they approach an employee about the need to improve something.  How often might the employee’s response, often aggressive in return, be a consequence of them knowing they can do better and that they violated expectations they know to be important in the enterprise?

Organizational health trumps everything.  (Patrick Lencioni – The Advantage)  There is no such thing as an unhealthy organization; only unhealthy people – both leaders and employees.  Please share your thoughts about this.

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