Open main menu

My way or the highway is a predominantly American idiom that dates back to the 1970s.[1] It suggests an ultimatum like "take it or leave it", which indicates that the listener(s) (who are typically not in a position to challenge the options, e.g. employees or those lacking money) must totally accept the speaker's decision or suffer negative consequences such as being fired, asked to leave, or receive nothing. It may sometimes be seen with other pronouns, for example, her way or the highway.

The idiom has been associated with narcissism[2][3][4] and micromanagement.[5]


One of former Hull hospitals boss Phil Morley's senior directors was reported as saying "it's Phil's way or the high way".[6]

As San Francisco Chief of Police, Anthony Ribera was known for his hair-trigger temper and aggressive "my way or the highway" approach which was detested in the Department.[7]

Meles Zenawi, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, was described by Donald Yamamoto, United States Ambassador to Ethiopia, as a man thirsty for power who will cling on to power till his last breath. His ideas were based on "it's my way or the highway" best described by David Shinn, former Ambassador to Ethiopia. Sources close to him and his family say he had a bad temper and liked to talk by telephone with leaders even in the middle of the night.[8]

Lawrence Biondi was a controversial figure over the span of his presidency at St. Louis University. When asked about his approach to leadership for accomplishing his bold vision, Biondi said he is a "my-way-or-the-highway kind of guy."[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Google ngrams
  2. ^ Kets de Vries MFR, Balazs K (1997) The Shadow Side of Leadership in The SAGE Handbook of. Leadership Pages 380-392
  3. ^ Summers DM, Summers CC (2006) Unadulterated Arrogance: Autopsy of the Narcissistic Parental Alienator The American Journal of Family Therapy Vol 34 Issue 5 Pages 399-428
  4. ^ Kealy D, Ogrodniczuk JS Narcissistic Interpersonal Problems in Clinical Practice December 2011, Vol. 19, No. 6, Pages 290-301
  5. ^ Chambers HE (2004) My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide
  6. ^ Coggan A (11 Feb 2015) Hull Daily Mail A 40-year NHS career in tatters: Pauline Lewin, the Hull hospital executive at centre of Phil Morley bullying claims
  7. ^ "Time for chief to bail out?". SFGate. 15 January 1995. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  8. ^ Peter, Mann. "WikiLeaks Cables:".
  9. ^ "Biondi: 25 Years – Architect of change, bulldog for progress - St. Louis Business Journal". 2012-08-10. Retrieved 2013-05-05.