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Do Effective Leaders Use Fear or Love in the Workplace?

Love Leadership

Entrepreneur Magazine posed this exact question in 2017 and came to this conclusion: The truth is, it’s neither better to be loved or feared. The key to effective leadership is balance.


Okay, this made me spit out my coffee and I wasn’t even drinking any.

Here’s what I am going to tell you. If you try to have a balance of fear and love, you shouldn’t be leading anyone. Period. Here’s why:

1. Fear is an action-prohibitor

People naturally avoid unsafe situations. This really comes to the surprise of no one – being in a constant state of “fight or flight” is not good recipe for living.

It adds stress, creates dependency, and makes people reactive to the world around them.

Okay, so sometimes it’s easy for us as Leaders to not see ourselves as intimidating. Or we find it difficult to understand why our people would naturally fear us.

Fact: We hold the keys for promotions or advancments.

Fact: We are responsible for performance reviews.

Fact: We make decisions on really important stuff.

But we also have the same power to demote or fire. Or deliver a bad performance review. It can negatively affect our people’s future. That’s why your people have a natural reason to fear you.

Those things can hurt and are unsafe. Nothing says lack of safety like being out of a job.

Think about coaches in sports growing up: How many coaches did you have growing up that screamed at you when you made a mistake? For no other than reason than the mistake, they made you fearful because you might ride the bench for the foreseeable future.

It’s no secret that coaches or Leaders that are prone to blowing up ensure their people tip-toe around them to avoid an explosion.

Would you want to take a chance to innovate or try to make a play for someone who may blow up on you for taking said chance?

Nothing halts risk-taking, no matter how small, than a Leader who instills fear in his people or culture.

Fear makes your team sit on their thumbs waiting for direction from you. Because missteps cause a reaction from you, and that reaction is a negative and harmful one.

This inactiveness leads to dependency. And dependency leads to mindless obedience. Because they no longer have to think – you’re doing the thinking for them.

Mindless obedience kills organizations because it kills action. Stay as far away from it as you can.

Good for the original author getting this right – “feared leaders can struggle earning trust.”


2. “Love” is not the same as “Like”

Entrepreneur says about leaders who love, “Employees think they can get away with slacking off, ignoring rules and doing whatever they want. Leaders [with love] are their buddy, not an authority figure.”

Did you slack off when your parents watched you play little league baseball? Did you feel proud accepting a high school or college diploma while they watched from the audience? What about getting your first job and letting them know about it?

We seek approval from the people we love. Showing love to your team does not evoke a sense of entitlement. It brings out a sense of pride.

like and love

Tap the Love Button, Not the Like Button

Leaders who can love and love freely create vulnerability that is vital to a long-lasting and honest relationship.

The act of being vulnerable shows your people that you trust them to treat you in a way that makes you feel safe. Your team wants to take care of you, too – allow them the chance to do that!

You do not(and will not) have to like everyone the same, but you must love everyone the same.

This brings me to the third point…

3. You can’t lead what you don’t love

Thank you to my leadership partner JC Glick for this quote. And, oh, how true it is.

A double faceted point. You can’t truly lead people if you don’t love them as people first. And you can’t lead to your fullest in an organization that doesn’t share your deepest and most sacred values.

Olympics: Soccer-Women's Gold Medal Match-JPN vs USA

According to Entrepreneur, “Leaders [with love] don’t have as much power, and employees may be less likely to listen to them and respect their authority.

I don’t know about you, but I really respect the people that I love.

Truth is — nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Your people should be treated like a person who is vital to the team. Because if they weren’t vital, should they even be there in the first place?

Now, here’s where the whole article really exposes itself.

The article finishes with “When leaders get this balance right, employees won’t fear or love them — employees will respect them as effective leaders.”

As a leader, the goal is to not get people to respect you.

The goal is for you to respect those who you lead, regardless of how they feel about you. Because without your respect, can you really expect them to respect you?

All organizations and team have leaders, however many do not love their people.

The goal is to develop leaders that truly love those they are responsible for. And for more than just the work they produce.

Through a collaborative process, we can facilitate the development of leadership and operational principles that gives an organization what it needs to progress.

This deliberate type of leadership is the foundation of your mission, vision, as well as your day to day operations. It allows you to train effectively and grow intentionally.

If you want to learn more about how to treat your people with love and open an honest and personal relationship with them, click here!

About the author, Tim

US Navy Surface Warfare Officer.
Lacrosse Player.

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