When Innovators are bullied, and the abuse hits a crescendo, they will often go over the Dragon’s head and seek support from the Dragon’s boss. If they meet with a Figurehead, the disappointment will be palpable.
Figureheads either immediately dismiss the concern or pretend to lend a supportive ear only to later bury the sentiment in a file folder marked “trash” as they carry on with business as usual. Figureheads tend to promote Community Builders who they can count on to smile, keep the boat afloat, and thoughtfully shove hard conversations neatly under reality’s shag rug. Figureheads are concerned with appearances but lack the fortitude to address systematic injustices torpedoed at Innovators, who are often the most creative, productive, and courageous employees in the organization.
Innovators who work for Figureheads often leave the company, frustrated by the Figurehead’s inability to engage openly and honestly about institutional issues that impede employees’ sense of belonging and psychological safety. Figureheads create steady but stagnant cultures that dull creativity, encourage compliance, and produce silence surrounding injustices.
By contrast, when a Leader hears the angst of an Innovator, she takes action by researching the problem, asking tough questions, and speaking truth to power in order to work for impactful change. Leaders, unlike Figureheads, earn their position by disrupting systems in search of solutions and tying their self-worth to ingenuity and progress, not their name on the door.
Leaders understand that autonomy, diverse perspectives, and dissent are powerful tools of transformation, essential for breaking through mediocrity; fighting the status quo; and creating communities that are inclusive, kind, and competitive. Leaders personally engage in creative work and make spaces that invite others to rewire the system without the roadblocks of steep hierarchies and fear of speaking out. Leaders are willing to go to bat for Innovators and value loud and messy progress over quiet compliance.
Related: The Psychology Of Toxic Leaders
Dragons cannot survive in organizations where employees have transparent, public, direct, and truthful conversations about systemic, institutional problems, so the Dragons leave and the Innovators rise, and that casting change is revelatory.
Innovators ask “Why” and “What if?” Dragons are the bullies. Shapeshifters fuel the fire. Community Builders ignore the heat while smiling. Figureheads pretend there is no battle. Leaders walk into the war and stop the bullying. What roles do the characters in your organization play?
References Davenport, N., Schwartz, R. D., & Elliott, G. P. (1999). Mobbing: Emotional abuse in the American workplace. Ames, IA: Civil Society Publishing.
Written by: Dorothy Suskind, Ph.D Originally appeared on:Psyhcology Today Republished with permission