Underdog Behaviors

Are you acting like an “underdog?” Sociologists have identified some self-defeating behavior patterns that are common among people who feel themselves to be in the “out-group.” In a business leadership setting, underdog behaviors are tell-tale signs that a leader is feeling impotent or insignificant. Some typical underdog behaviors are:
• Blaming others when you can’t get the job done
• Building up your self-esteem by belittling others, especially others who belong to the same “out-group”
• Over-identifying with the dominant group and exaggerating its strengths
• Preferring to be the only member of your out-group in a leadership setting; placing barriers in the way of others like you

It is not hard to recognize underdog behaviors in others. Everyone has colleagues who always find excuses instead of holding themselves accountable. We all know women leaders who out-bully the men, or members of ethnic or racial minorities who do nothing to help others climb the ladder.

It is much harder to see these behaviors in ourselves. But if we examine ourselves honestly, when we are in settings where we are outsiders, most of us act like underdogs at least occasionally. These behaviors are understandable, but they really undermine our effectiveness as leaders. They don’t make others respect us; in fact they make us look kind of pathetic.

So what’s the alternative? How about acting like a “topdog?”
• Hold yourself accountable to a standard of excellence
• Build up your self-esteem by doing great things, while acknowledging the greatness of others
• Respect the dominant group while being true to your own identity
• Use your position and influence to provide a hand-up to other deserving members of your group.

What do you think? Let us know.

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