Abrasive Executives: A New Perspective

by Jordan Goldrich, MCEC

This is a different and perhaps provocative perspective on leaders who are experienced as abrasive. Most people who write about these executives or work with them call them names like bully, jerk, hyena, narcissist, toxic or the term in the (New York Times?) best seller, The No Asshole Rule. Would you agree that calling people demeaning names because you want them to be more respectful is ironic if not hypocritical?

In my experience working with these executives, I have found that most of them do not want to hurt people. In most cases, they have a warrior spirit. They get results in seemingly impossible situations with a work ethic that accepts nothing less than always giving their all. They are always goal focused, drive for results, demand discipline and hold everyone accountable…relentlessly. Even above average performers may wonder where they get the energy to keep going.

Doing and being the best, achieving and serving are so important to them, that they experience poor performance, laziness, and dishonesty as a personal attack. They respond defensively in a way others experience as disrespectful. Most are shocked when they learn the impact they are having on others.

My view is that we should honor their warrior spirit, value their contribution and challenge them to become better warriors. That means leading with humility and protecting others who cannot protect themselves among other things.

I believe these are high performing, yet imperfect human beings . . . just like all of us.

What is your opinion?


Jordan Goldrich leverages his background as a Chief Operations Officer and Master Corporate Executive Coach (MCEC), to partner with senior executives to drive results while developing their organizations, teams and the next generation of leaders. Jordan is the author of the forthcoming book, People Skills For The No-BullSh*t Executive: the least you can do. He specializes in helping valuable executives who are experienced as abrasive to increase their effectiveness while changing their impact. Jordan is a partner in CUSTOMatrix as well as Senior Talent Management Executive with Executive Core and Senior Executive Coach with the Center for Creative Leadership.

Share this

2 Replies to “Abrasive Executives: A New Perspective”

  1. Hi, Jordan. I agree that calling these type of executives a demeaning name, even abrasive, is not good form. However, I also believe that calling them “warriors” with a “warrior spirit” causes a different set of problems. Do we really want to encourage leaders and others to play a finite game that implies fighting? This sounds more medieval than modern, and more masculine than gender neutral. The term warrior also can feel threatening to those around them, and when we’re threatened, we can flee, freeze or fight. Whichever way we act, we’re not doing our best thinking or being open to infinite possibilities.

  2. I appreciate your comment. I am aware that I am challenging the current belief that masculine behavior should be minimized and gender neutral is both the more fair and effective. I am taking my definition of warrior from the ethos of The Navy Seals Ethos. I am using this to define the term “warrior.” (I have abstracted key items below.)

    I would argue that the first 7 commitments of the SEALs ethos (which I am referring to as warrior traits) are very valuable for both men and women. And, that we need them for the success of our organizations and country. They are typical of what we are trying to eliminate in school age males with sports events where there is no score kept so as not to upset anyone.

    1. I have an uncommon desire to succeed
    2.. I am forged by adversity
    3. I accept the responsibility of my chosen way of life
    4. I take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission
    5. I demand discipline
    6. I expect innovation
    7. I am never out of the fight

    This second group is also critical for the success of our organizations and country. I believe that in these areas, most leaders who are identified as abrasive are imperfect leaders. I would also argue that both men and women are equally challenged by these.

    8. I have uncompromising integrity
    9. My loyalty is beyond reproach
    10. My character and honor are steadfast
    11. I expect to lead and be lead
    12. I humbly serve
    13. The ability to control my emotions and actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart
    14. I place the welfare and security of others before my own
    15. I defend those who are not able to defend themselves
    16. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission.

    Thank you again for surfacing this issue. I believe it is a topic that has become polarized in our current political environment.

Comments are closed.