Is there ever a place for management by shouting? Surely not. Surely any manager who shouts at their team members is now rightly considered a bully?

A couple of months ago we published a blog from an NHS nurse that mentioned shouting and screaming at staff members as a terrible management practice, and one that caused the writer to leave that job and search for another position. You can read it here. Shouting and bullying in the workplace are wrong.

And yet there are still a couple of places where such behaviour is a common leadership practice. And there are a couple of prominent people, lauded by the media as being amongst the greatest leaders of the past two decades, who frequently used management by shouting as a tool in their leadership.

Steve Jobs regularly shouted at his team mates when he wasn’t pleased with the work they produced. He seemingly did it less during the 2000s as compared to in the 1980s, as he matured and mellowed as a leader. But shouting was still a technique he occasionally employed. And with Jobs it was definitely a deliberate technique. He did it as a means of motivating people, of gaining the outcome he wanted. And if he saw shouting didn’t work with a person, he’d use a different technique. It’s not that he was an out-of-control, raging volcano. He was a calculating person who used management by shouting when he thought it was effective.

Another prominent leader who used shouting in a similar way was Sir Alex Ferguson. His dressing room rants became so legendary they were given a nickname; the ‘hairdryer treatment’ was given at half time when Manchester United were losing, and Fergie wanted to make clear who he held responsible. But once again, it was a technique. Ryan Giggs tells a story of him being on the end of the hairdryer one half time, and then going out in the second half determined to play better, and prove his boss wrong. And since that time, because Fergie had worked out how to motivate Giggs, he continued to shout at him throughout the coming years.

Perhaps I’m being unfair to single out Steve Jobs and Fergie. There are no doubt many other business managers and football managers who also use management by shouting. But should they? Is it ever acceptable?

I think it’s become far less acceptable in the world of business. In many places staff would now lodge a complaint of bullying if their boss frequently shouted at them. But perhaps not so in sports, where shouting from the coach is still an acceptable motivational technique. Should it be? Or should sports culture also change, so that management by shouting can be forever consigned to the dustbin? It’s opposite to the sort of leadership modeled by Jesus, based on service and humility. So it’s not a technique that great leaders, and certainly Christian leaders, should ever resort to.

Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s an experienced leadership trainer, author of biographies on John Wesley and William Wilberforce, and is also passionate about praying for London. He enjoys good films, good food, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.

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