Clarifying Authority – Seeking Your Input

Dear Friends,

Last week I wrote about the old male authority figure – and how we can keep what works and ditch what doesn’t. Again, as is becoming wonderfully routine, it garnered comments from readers that challenged and stretched the idea I presented.

This week, I offer a very brief clarification and I renew the invitation to you to help me develop some data about what happens when people encounter strong authority behavior. I’d be most appreciative if you’d take the 10-minute survey. You’ll see the already fascinating results as soon as you complete it.

Here’s the clarification:  I talked about a teacher named John Tenbusch and his eraser-tossing, total rule of his classroom.  I wasn’t clear about two things. First, JT was amazing; his passion about teaching the English language created hundreds of fine writers. And if his passion about the art of writing was surpassed by anything it was by his love for students. For example, in decades where minority students labored under (what I believe were unconscious but nevertheless) unfairly low expectations and didn’t get a lot of individual attention (arguably few students did in that era), JT went out of his way to be hospitable, supportive and to set a high bar, and even to maintain relationships years after the students had graduated.

My treatment of JT also revealed the other point I was unclear about. What I should have made clear is that I am talking about a cultural, not a personal phenomenon.  It wasn’t JT.  His sometimes over-the-top tone-setting was a ready example of a widespread tolerance and encouragement of a “dad-knows-best, boss-knows-best, information-on-a-need-to-know, so get in line” approach. It is these continuing, unconscious thoughts about authority that I’m suggesting we – especially men – gain great awareness of.

Again, I’d love for you to do the survey and continue to share your thoughts on evolving notions of authority.  Authority must always be factored in if you hope to:

Lead with your best self,


  • I’m in good company with the large group of ENTJ’s who completed the survey so far. I’ve got to mull over what that might mean! One thought – since ENTJ’s are known for the importance of competence might a survey on feedback and discipline especially appeal to this type?

    • Cathy,
      I’ve been (pleasantly) surprised at how many people know their Myers Briggs type.
      I guess that says something about a “typical” RFL reader. As you’ve indicated, it also creates the opportunity to explore how type may play out in different ways.
      Always great to hear from you!

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