How To Be An Effective Short Male Leader

How To Be An Effective Short Male Leader


By Harold Everton

Published September 2016

One of the most odd things I remembered in High School was "a tale of a two Educators". One was tall and had what most would call classically handsome male features - Over 6', chiseled jaw and a deep voice. The other was no taller than 5'3, balding and had a voice that would make even Alvin and the chipmunks cringe. What was different however was that all of the students would walk all over the tall teacher while respecting and fearing the short one. What was going on here?


See Also: Personality Traits Short Men Should Avoid


See, we're socialized to believe that taller is better; that tallness is correlated with intelligence, authority and respect. We already know that this heightist attitude is what paves the way for short men to be passed over for promotions and as dating prospects. However how students treated these two teachers did not follow this widely accepted narrative. What separated the two was effective leadership practices and being aware of social cues with respect to their physical disposition. 


Maintaining Frame

Authority is defined as "the power to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience". In a position of authority one is most likely to gain respect from his colleagues by knowing his craft, being humble, setting boundaries and delegating his attained powers fairly and appropriately while considering the feelings of individuals on a holistic level. In other words, demanding the best from those he leads, while being extremely considerate and taking a vested interest in the individual cogs in the wheel. 


How To Be An Effective Short Male Leader: Maintain Frame And Keep A Cool Head | ShortGuyCentral

Always Maintain Frame And A Cool Head | Source: Spin City


Even with this "respect", for many short men, the effects of heightism can and will rear its ugly head in the form challenges and insubordination; not because of a knowledge deficit, but rather because lack of height has been programmed to be mean "unworthy of respect". 

So what do you do in such a scenario? Maintain a solid frame. Never let your colleagues see you crack. You let the norms you've set (or organizational policy) and boundaries do the talking and then take objective action. This means not getting emotionally invested. Understand that people can be jerks, and once they know what your buttons are, it'll be like a kid in an elevator. Cool heads always prevail and is a prerequisite to building trust. Remember, your colleagues are always listening and watching. Maintain frame; no matter how hard you think it may be.


Setting Boundaries

I mentioned setting boundaries above, but to clarify, this doesn't just involve how colleagues interact with you, it also involves how they interact with each other. I once worked under a short female executive. One day, one of my colleagues (another short woman) made a height joke in the presence of the said executive. Without me responding to the joke, she said politely but sternly said, "no, we will not be insulting people for their physical attributes here".


How To Be An Effective Short Male Leader: Make Your Boundaries Clear | ShortGuyCentral

Make Boundaries Clear And Model Them When Necessary | Source: Heat


My boss was an older woman who grew up during the Civil Rights era and the Vietnam war. She smiled often, but ruled with an iron fist with regards to how employees treated one another. My colleague quickly retreated in shame. A similar situation happened when a male colleague made a suggestive comment about a woman's outfit. No write-ups were necessary in these cases. A stern talking-to and swift action served as effective reality checks (though I'm sure she took notes for future reference). 

The point here is not to be a dictator (authoritative leadership styles can certainly alienate), but by setting boundaries and modeling behavior, you can establish strong organizational culture norms which will ensure an environment of respect and rapport, which can translate to a staff who is content and full of pride. Remember Maslow's pyramid, those who feel like they belong are more likely to perform. 


Listening & Observing

Frequently over the course of a day which could literally consist of dozens of social interactions, seldom do we listen. Let me clarify - we hear the words coming out of their mouths but many of us spend time focusing on our response rather than processing the bigger JPEG with them as the focus. Listening goes beyond a person's vocal contribution to a conversation. What does their body language convey? What is the background behind their current mental model? How does your relationship with that person affect their demeanor while in your presence? All of this matters and should affect the trajectory of a conversation once you get into the driver's seat. Listen, think, think again and then react, but with strengthening your professional relationship and keeping that person self-assured and productive in mind. 


See Also: Beware Of The Reformed Heightist Woman


My former boss for example (who is a short man), made it a habit to walk through the corridors of my building almost daily and make small talk with his subordinates. These "water cooler" conversations were largely informal consisted of him asking everyone how their day was, if they saw the game the night before, whether or not they were into television shows such as "Dancing With The Stars", how their kids were or if they needed anything. He also distributed surveys asking for input on their opinion of the workplace environment, their given tasks and their stress level. The end result was a manager who had a clearer picture as to what everyone was enduring in their day-to-day lives. He was well informed, and should any conflict arise, he always seemed to know what to say and which approach to use depending on the employee. He made communication with everyone seem almost effortless. 

By contrast, in graduate school I had a part-time professor (another short man) who was a manager during the day. During class, he would tell us about all of these tricks that he would use to give him the upper hand when dealing with clients and employees. One such trick was organizing his office so clients would sit at a round table while he sat on a sofa facing the table. His sofa would be placed a few inches higher than the chairs at the facing table (a technique actually which many talk show hosts use). His reasoning was that by him sitting afar, everyone would have to face him, effectively giving him their undivided attention. His sofa was placed higher than the chairs at the table (by way of a makeshift platform) so they could "look up" to him alluding to his power. Not surprisingly, the man gloated heavily about his authoritative "my way or the highway" leadership style. Classmates who knew colleagues of his would regularly discuss how they all referred to him as a certain part of the male anatomy. I'll leave that to your imagination. 

So How Do You Become A Respected Authority Figure?

Well, if you haven't figured out the underlying theme here, it involves a lot of trust. Your colleagues no matter how young or old, short or tall, race or ethnicity are all going to bring their mental baggage to the workplace. This includes tons of social conditioning, coming-of-age trauma, the fruits of past bad decision-making as well as fear -  even if they are the most confident and successful of people. It is your duty to build trust, demonstrate your expertise, exercise both self-control and patience with the goal of creating an environment which includes shared decision making where appropriate and where successes are celebrated organization-wide. After all, a win for any of your colleagues is also win for you.  


See Also: Owning Your Shortness: Being A Proud Short Man


You need not be preoccupied with closet "angry short man" or "little man syndrome" accusations when leading for these types of put-down are going to be encouraged since shorter men are exempt from the social protections which other groups currently enjoy. It doesn't matter who you are, if you occasionally arrive at a decision or commit to something which leaves any of your subordinates very unhappy, chatter may and will ensue. Considering this, your attention should be on the success of your unit and maintaining an environment which is conducive to it in both the short and long term. 


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