Leadership: The Difference Between Aggression and Assertiveness

November 16, 2016
VMD Staff

Brian Faulkner, Bsc (Hons), BVM&S, CertGP (BPS), CertGP (SAM), MBA, MSc (Psych), MRCVS, explains the difference between an aggressive leader and an assertive leader.

Brian Faulkner, Bsc (Hons), BVM&S, CertGP (BPS), CertGP (SAM), MBA, MSc (Psych), MRCVS, explains the difference between an aggressive leader and an assertive leader.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“Of course if you have a leader who’s arrogant and superior in attitude, that’s just dangerous. Leadership is all about representing your followers. It’s not about representing your ego in a narcissistic way.

Leaders who are self-centered, obsessed, narcissistic, and arrogant, I don’t really think of them as very good leaders. They may be in positions of so-called responsibility, but they’re not leading in a sincere, authentic way.

I think aggression, like any behavior, is ultimately a manifestation of our mindset and our belief. We shouldn’t have to tame down our aggression. It should be something we shouldn’t want to do.

Aggression means, as long as I’m OK, and I get my way, I don’t care about you. I’m happy to harm you in my pursuit. Whereas assertiveness, which is a slightly different concept, is much more about, I’ve got interests, rights, values, and so do you. You have interests, rights, and values. Assertiveness is, I’m going to pursue my interests, rights, and values, but not in a way that violates yours. So I’m happy to listen to yours, be respectful of them, but let’s work in a way that we can create a consensus whereby we both make progress."