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The Science of Brag and Bash Leadership

One of the most difficult types of organizations to work with is one which is controlled by what I call “brag and bash leadership.” It does not take a lot of looking around to notice leaders with a very black and white view of the “good and bad” people within their sphere of influence.

  • They are usually big story tellers who can talk at length about how great other leaders are even if all they have to wax about is their high school football performance.
  • They are equally as quick to very publicly denounce other leaders who are outside their sphere of influence.
  • They are evangelists who are constantly attempting to win others to their point of view.
  • They exist in every form of leadership including business, faith, medicine, and most noticeably politics.

It is easy to become angry at these kinds of leaders and become one of them in doing so. Understanding them through the lens of science can provide some guidance about how to positively influence them and not become one of their false champions or enemies.

Brag and bash leaders nearly always have what attachment science calls an insecure base of primary relationships.

Attachment neuroscience has proven the importance of having a few people in our lives who we can trust to be there for us when we are feeling the most emotionally vulnerable. People who are securely attached enjoy better physical and psychological health.

  • They have significantly less cardiovascular disease
  • They can tolerate a higher threshold of pain
  • They function better under stress
  • They have a higher overall sense of well being
  • They attribute significantly less negative attributions to others
  • They have lower emotional intelligence and higher employee turnover

At another time I will describe some of the science that proves these points.

To sum it up, brag and bash leaders have more insecure family relationships which make them feel insecure. This causes them to have significant physical and emotional health problems.

They are very emotionally sensitive and easily wounded by people who do not whole-heartedly agree with them. Keeping people close who will not disagree with them makes them feel more emotionally safe.

It is impossible to avoid working with this kind of leader. In our detached society they are everywhere. To stay out of their web and to position yourself to be of real help to them observe the following recommendations.

  • Do not be seduced into believing their praise is real. (If you are a kind person they will want to make¬† you their savior.)
  • Do not let them give you any special favors. (You will feel trapped and compelled to agree with them even when you don’t.)
  • Be tactful, truthful and compassionate with them so that you minimize the risk to stirring their emotional insecurity (which will require them to make you an enemy).
  • Strengthen your own primary emotional attachments (so that you will not be tempted to brag and bash).
  • Grow your emotional intelligence and empower your people.

At some times all people are tempted to brag and bash. We all have different forms of relationship insecurity. By strengthening our primary relationships and by growing in emotional intelligence we can brag and bash less and serve and empower others more.


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