The Dance of Oppressive Leaders

Living life with feelings of oppression sweeping our hearts is a hard and stressful life. Is there a way out?

Many of us have experienced living our childhood and at work with the harsh oppressive treatment from parents, teachers, or leaders. Oppressive leaders tend to force their ideas and mode of working on others with cruelty and unfairness. Suffering from oppressive mentors or bosses is a hard experience to swallow and can damage our lives.

Listening recently to a young man who left his job because of the oppression he faced from his manager was the trigger to share this post. Is it the emergent behavior from the complexity of several feelings interacting below the surface?

The Iceberg of Oppression

Research on oppressive behaviors shows they result from different feelings hidden beneath the surface. These include lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, fear, shaken self-belief, and loss of attention.

The Iceberg of Oppression

The feelings of fear, rejection and self-unworthiness lead to negative interaction and their complexity of interacting and reinforcing each other results in the emerging oppressive behavior. (See image below).

The Feelings-Personality cycle

Oppressive leaders suffer from very negative feelings so that their words become aggressive, their thoughts damaging and cruel, their repeated behaviors form their intolerant habits and their oppressive personality emerges.

The resulting culture is spreading fear, confusion, yielding characters, drop in creativity and productivity, disengagement, and high turn-over rate of employees. One oppressive leader can damage an organization.

This reminds me of a recent great post by Jean L. Serio published on BIZCATALYST and titled “CULTURE NEGATIVELY AFFECTS YOUR CAREER, YOUR SUCCESS – YOUR LIFE?” Very rightly, she wrote, “It’s safe to say company culture is often overlooked during job searching. Yet it revolves around you, daily, once you are hired. Affecting everything from interactions with company execs, clients, and co-workers to your career advancement and mental health”.

The prevailing culture provides early indicators of the work environment in any organization.

A very welcome idea that adds a volume of wisdom is from my inspiration reading the post of Rached Alimi.  I commented on his post what I found of relevance to this article. I wrote, “Reading these lines from your super post amazed me and felt my heart dancing with joy. These lines are:

  • But dance lives simultaneously in time and space.
  • Do not dance the steps, but what is behind (or inside) them, the thoughts that generate them!
  • Our body creates thought and dance is its language.
  • There are times when the simple dignity of a movement can worthily replace a mountain of words.

I am drafting a post on oppressive leaders and why they behave the way, they do. How they feel, think, behave and then shape their personalities. Your lines that dancing is the body language of how our bodies think is a very mature idea. I am now thinking if oppressive leaders show their oppression in the way they dance”.

Dancing is the language (words) that we use and generate our thoughts and behaviors. Is this another key indicator of oppressive leaders? This is a wide possibility and merits further investigation. I can imagine how oppressed employees dance to the cruel words of their oppressive leaders and what culture prevails accordingly.


Ali Anani
Ali Anani
My name is Ali Anani. I hold a Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia (UK, 1972) Since the early nineties I switched my interests to publish posts and presentations and e-books on different social media platforms.

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  1. Excellent comment Aldo Delli Paoli. I approve it in its totality. So well integrated and written.

    I submitted a post this morning to BIZCATALYST 360° on dried plants as metaphor for stressing leaders. I would have definitely quoted your comment in it had I read it earlier.

    Your comprehension of leadership is outstanding.

  2. I am not an expert in dance but I find the idea very clear and appropriate.
    Personally I also believe that an oppressive leader, in his work environment, does not actually even favor the creation and maintenance of a certain order, because the strongly guided rules from above do not curb the emergence of conflicts but simply hide them until at which the situation does not explode (All oppression creates a state of war !!).
    An oppressive leadership certainly makes it difficult for new ideas to emerge and tends to keep the working environment on the status quo, with no vision of the future. Perhaps it may be more suitable for managing moments of crisis, in which quick decisions must be made without too much discussion.
    This is a suffocating way to exist for anyone working under this type of leadership. The company is infested with negativity, resentment, hostility, immoral competitiveness and meanness. Infighting is pervasive, and long-term profitability is reduced when leaders’ egos infect the fabric of the employee’s self-esteem and sense of dignity. High turnover and employee burnout are collective manifestations.