The Screamer

The screamer is the alpha-wolf of their corporate pack, and if you don't figure that out in the first fifteen minutes, you're probably deaf.  Screamers come in a variety of flavors -- yellers, cursers, table pounders, I've even seen one that would throw things at people.

The screamer usually gives the impression they are a hot-head, and sometimes the explanation is as simple as that.  For other screamers, they use their white-hot anger to probe, test and challenge anyone and everyone in the organization.  Of the screamers I've met, it is the second variety that seem to ascend the corporate hierarchy -- boards seem to see them as strong, or demanding.

The screamer often appears to be looking for subordinates who will "stand up to the boss" and fight back.  But from the perspective of the average subordinate, their raging boss looks like a lion roaring and licking his chops -- it's a rare person indeed who will go toe-to-toe with a lion.  The assumption in the behavior appears to be only the best people will actually take-on the screamer, and it is a way to strongly discourage the weaker ones from staying.  The fallacy of the assumption is that an employee with plenty of courage is not necessarily any better or worse at their job than someone more reserved.

Those employees foolish enough to try to appease the screamer will find their efforts very unsatisfying.  By attempting appeasment, the subordinate classifies themself into the "lamb" category, the type of employee the screamer is either consciously or unconsciously trying to drive out of the business.

As I've already mentioned, some screamers just have explosive tempers.  Most, I believe, are more delibrate in their behavior.  Those seem to subscribe to a form of social darwinism, or simply feel it is better to be feared than respected.  This last viewpoint seems to have some merit, as I've seen employees put in some pretty amazing work effort when the screamer has them in his sights.

For the larger organization, the primary alpha wolf seems to let a few younger potential alphas stick around -- perhaps for succession planning purposes.  The rest of the organization is either sheltered from the screamer, or lives in nearly constant terror of encountering him or her.  Exposure to this leader is definitely seen as a blessing (an opportunity to stand out) and a curse (the risk of being crushed under heel), and not typically sought out by most of the management team.

In cases where the screamer is in place for an extended period of time, a collection of guessers and sooth-sayers often seem to develop.  These are the employees who attempt to tell others what the boss really wants.  These individuals create a lot of useless busy work, and waste enormous amounts of the company's efforts.  

Since the ability to survive a firefight is NOT a key to success for most corporate jobs, there is an adverse selection and promotion criteria subtly in place.  This tends to lead to a shortage of good qualified candidates, with many of those remaining wondering why they stick around.  The screamer can also generate risk aversion like no other extreme leader -- but only if he or she punishes those taking the risks when they fail.

Screamers seem to do fairly well overall compared to the other extreme leadership styles.  There are many of them in positions of high authority, and their companies seem to suffer less than many of the other types.  Still, a screamer would be the last extreme leader I personally would want to work for, and I'm sure many others feel the same.