The Cowardly Lion disguised as “Boss”

Do you remember the classic book and movie “Wizard of Oz”? Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion were among the characters. In one scene, the Lion sings this famous tune about what it would be like if everyone in the forest respected and feared him.

“I’m afraid there’s no denyin’

I’m just a dandy-lion

A fate I don’t deserve

I’m sure I could show my prowess

Be a lion, not a mouse

If I only had the nerve.”


Think back on all of the bosses you’ve had. Have any looked a lot like the cowardly lion? I have had a few and I bet you have, too. Bosses, supervisors (whatever title they may have) that leave you feeling disheartened and frustrated by their lack of courage. Talk about a morale killer.


A cowardly boss is one who avoids conflicts, would rather be popular than respected, says “YES” to almost everything and everyone and rewards poor performance, because it is the easiest choice.


So, what to do if you find yourself in this situation? In my opinion, you have 3 choices.

  1. Continue to be a “team player.” Accept that it is what it is and know that you are putting your reputation and integrity on the line by not “rocking the boat.”

  2. Be “that” one. Be the person to talk about the hard topics, be open to hearing all sides of the discussion, acknowledge that changes will not be easy, but necessary if you want your company to grow and your employees to grow professionally. Be realistic that doing so will not make everyone happy, in fact, it will make many upset. Demand clear and consistent answers and actions from your boss and others around you (watch for actions, words are meaningless without action). Go to bed knowing your integrity is intact.

  3. If you find that your boss is not the exception and in fact, cowardice runs rampant throughout your organization including the top layers, you need to decide if staying in a culture that rewards that behavior is worth it. It may be time to leave Oz.


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