Sometimes we get confused and unable to distinguish between leaders and bullies. In my experience the leader is one who empowers. One who looks to his or her team and organizes their talents to achieve more than any one of them could achieve individually. The leader is also a trusted member of the team, not the “boss,” but one who is respected by the team and from whom the leader is granted his or her power. Leadership entails strengthening individual team members by identifying their weaknesses and strengthening them either through personal example or through other developmental opportunities. The leader respects the people under their care. The leader unifies people to achieve a common goal. Leaders are admired and put others and the team’s objectives above their own self-interest.


Bullies on the other hand are not leaders. They are exploiters. They do not gain their power from those they have power over. Rather they have an external power they use to exploit others for their own gain. Such power may stem from physical appearance (e.g. size, strength, or beauty), wealth (however attained), education, intellect or social position. Bullies care little for those under their power and quickly dispatch those who do not enhance their position. They do not build the skills of their followers, but rather are always in search of others who can be of benefit to them while discarding those who are less effective. Bullies denigrate and disparage others for self-enhancement. The bully divides people and are feared by others. They view themselves as superior to those whom fall under their power.


In this time of division in our country and around the world, it is important to discern the true leaders from the bullies. Please do not confuse bullying for leadership.

Sam Gould earned his doctorate in organizational behavior, has published numerous articles in academic journals on the topic and has served in leadership positions in the corporate, governmental and academic arenas. Dr. Gould is dean emeritus of the School of Business Administration, University of Dayton.