Simi Valley Sophist

The Simi Valley Sophist ruminates on all manner of topics from the micro to the macro. SVS travels whatever path strikes his fancy. Encyclopedia Britannica: Sophist "Any of certain Greek lecturers, writers, and teachers in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, most of whom travelled about the Greek-speaking world giving instruction in a wide range of subjects in return ..."

Location: California, United States

Retired: 30years law enforcement-last 20 years Criminal Intelligence Detective.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Arrogance of Power or Informed Leadership

Laurence Fishburne had a line in the movie The Cotton Club in which he stated, "You've got to learn, that when you push people around, some people push back."

That makes sense to me, but apparently Mason & Felder at the Jewish World Review don’t think highly of the concept:

...the banality of the Fishburn quote — which as any kindergarten teacher can explain is the philosophy of four year old children...

Children have the ability to cut to the chase since they innately understand the nature of power uninhibited by the grownup niceties of hierarchy and negotiation designed to lessen violence in conflict resolution. Children “push back” from a physical intrusion in the only way that they know, physically. Adults have learned all sorts of ways to non-physically push people around, especially if they have power over some one. I talked about the abusive behavior of some work supervisors in my piece, “Black Hats Destroy the Thin Blue Line.”

Within the work place, sometimes subordinate employees refuse to relinquish a contrary opinion or kowtow to a supervisor more comfortable with the arrogance of power rather than the hard work of informed leadership. That would be the supervisor who derogatorily brands the opinionated employee as a person who “pushes back.”

I’ll admit that the “push back” label amuses me no end since it is intended to be derogatory. But it is not, and here’s why. The Free Dictionary defines “push back:”

Noun1.push back - the act of forcing the enemy to withdraw or rollback

Verb1.push back - cause to move back by force or influence; "repel the enemy"; "push back the urge to smoke"; "beat back the invaders" repel, repulse
In other words, there can be no “push back” if you are not pushed first. There is nothing untoward in standing tall in the face of adversity.

Frequently, the activity inappropriately characterized as a “push back” is an employee refusal to agree with a premise, as opposed to an insubordinate action in which the employee fails or refuses to recognize or submit to the authority of a superior. The moment that the supervisor characterizes a subordinate’s reaction as a “push back,” the supervisor has telegraphed his interpretation that the employee is challenging either the supervisor’s authority, or, as in this case, the supervisor’s credibility. The “push back” characterization is not possible without at least a subconscious admission on the part of the supervisor that it is he who pushed first.

I once had a Chief who took the time and effort to inquire, listen, debate and decide. When that process was completed and any matter of disagreement remained, he’d say, “Well, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.” There is a man who earned respect. And a man to admire, even if you did not agree with everything he decided.

What is there to say about the supervisor who does not rise to the stature of my former Chief?

“…when you push people around, some people push back."

Links in this Blog:
Biography for Laurence Fishburne

The Cotton Club

Send Ward to a ward?

Black Hats Destroy the Thin Blue Line

Free Dictionary Definition of Push Back