The Leader as Chief Bouncer

As a leader, you need to know when it’s time for somebody to bounce. Bar Bouncers are skilled at this art and know when it’s time to use force in the protection of guests. In leadership, the responsibility is much the same.

Bouncer is Ready to FightMy Knife Threat

In my youth, I was the effective bouncer of a 24 hour diner in Allentown, PA. Our late-night clientele was diverse, including patrons of local bars, sobering up for their drive home. I was proud of running a tight ship and keeping my guests safe. One night though, that almost didn’t happen.

We had a particularly rowdy group that night. It was the clientele you always had to keep an eye on. They got out of control and I asked them to leave. At that point, one guy stood up from his table and pulled a knife.

As my mind raced, I became aware of a group coming to back me up. Ultimately, I realized this group of “backup” included regular guests from a biker gang, some college kids, a few theater-goers and more.

I was fortunate. The knife-wielder was sober enough to see this, put away his weapon and lead his group out the door.

The Leader as Bouncer

As a leader, you must also play the role of Chief Bouncer. You may not face a physical threat, but you still face damage to your organization. Here’s what good bouncing entails for leaders:

1. Build Cross-Functional Support: When trouble occurs, you need support from more than one team. If I only had friends with one group of regulars that night and they weren’t there, I’d have been in bad shape. Your support needs to come from more than one area as well. By serving all your stakeholders, you ensure that cross-section of support.

2. Identify Threats: Bouncers constantly scan their environment for trouble. This must also be among your many responsibilities. Trouble will arise before you can take action if you’re not constantly on the lookout.

3. Take Action: Waiting too long can spell disaster. Bouncers know if they see an argument escalating, they need to break it up and get the scrappers out on the street, before punches are thrown. Leadership requires the same action. Constructive tension is good but anyone resorting to destruction needs to be out on the street.

 I came by my support through a combination of natural tendency and luck. Thankfully, it turned out well for me that night. Now, as leaders thinking constructively through our responsibilities, we can look at bouncers for some keen insights.


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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