Bullies make bad boxers
There’s a saying in most boxing gyms: “Bullies make bad boxers.”
We all know them. Big macho dudes in the gym thinking they’ll prove their worth by pounding on everyone smaller than them.
But bullies are cowards. Afraid to expose their fears and insecurities. Ego maniacs with an inferiority complex. And it doesn’t take long before a mature boxer puts them in their place on the mat. After their weakness is exposed, they usually leave and you never see them again. There’s a clear message in good boxing gyms: “Bullies don’t belong here, and bullying behavior is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated.”
The best boxers are actually often the ones who have been bullied. They come with courage and humility, open to an honest evaluation of their strengths and weakness. They have no need to bring down those who are weaker than them. Instead, they have a burning desire to be all they are capable of being – by learning from those who are better than they are.
Muhammad Ali, at the peak of his career, was asked what he would do if a complete stranger slugged him. Ali responded, “I’d turn and run ‘cause that man must be craazzy!”
Ali was no coward. He could have easily beaten up just about anyone on the planet, and he knew it. But he was no bully. He was confident and had no need to prove himself by hurting anyone who didn’t stand a chance against him.
This is where boxing and leadership intersect. Bullies make bad leaders. There are people in organizations who use their title to abuse others. Like bullies in the boxing ring who try to show their worth by hitting people weaker than them, bullies in the workplace hide from their insecurities and turn to the cowardly actions of control, coercion, and abuse of power.
And, just like bullies in the boxing ring, bullies in the workplace need to be put in their place – by their boss or their board – and told, in no uncertain terms, that disrespectful, abusive behavior is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated.
May we have the courage and humility to face ourselves honestly and take a stand against people who abuse their power. May we all have the courage to do the right thing at the right time.