Leadership Styles: Feared or Loved?


Leaders, managers and entrepreneurs have long debated whether it is best to get their people to fear them or to like them. This question was posed by Machiavelli centuries ago in his controversial book on politics “The Prince”. While this was in regard to how leaders should govern their people, that question can also be asked of our managers.
Management by fear is associated with certain attitudes. Here, there is a strong belief in negative reinforcement, like penalties to force compliance. This type of manager usually cares little about employees’ personal lives. On the other hand, those who want to be loved believe that if they make their employees happy, these people will reciprocate and be more productive.
Both sides have their advocates. In practice, people use a combination of the two styles, although there is usually a tendency to rely mostly on the method of their preference.
Advantages of using fear:
It gets you get respect. If you are new to your position or younger relative to your subordinates, it is usually better to instill respect. In this situation, there is a strong tendency to test your authority. If some of the personnel are former co-workers or friends, the problem is compounded. Be prepared to be harsh if necessary. It is going to be extremely difficult if there are friends who expect different treatment or are over familiar in their attitude.
It gets things done. Sometimes you have no choice but to assert your authority. When positive motivation no longer works, penalties and ultimately even terminations in order to get things done.
Disadvantages of using fear:
You may drive away scarce talent. If you are dealing with people who are hard to replace, then it will be extremely difficult to retain them if they could easily get employed in another company. It is very likely that they will look for a better environment unless they would be foregoing large separation pay.
People may be afraid to take initiative. In an atmosphere of fear, the primary concern will be on how to avoid mistakes instead of making bold plans that inevitably carry risks.
You may be hated. Even Machiavelli warns against being too cruel that you are hated. When fear turns into hate, instead of getting obedience you will find your personnel actively resisting management. At its extreme, this may develop into sabotage or even strikes.
The wheel may turn around. There may come a time that you will be at the mercy of those you had previously terrorized; then, you may regret your past behavior!
Advantages to wanting to be loved:
It feels good. This may not be politically correct, but there are many managers who enjoy being a benefactor or friend to their subordinates. Contrary to what is often portrayed in telenovelas, it is a rare manager that would not like being the bearer of good news.
People are more likely to give you useful information. When people believe you are a good person, they are more likely to trust you with information. This comes in many forms. It may be that they would be more honest with their feedback of a certain project you wish to implement. People are also more likely to report co-workers that are involved in serious violations if you have a good relationship with them.
People are motivated to come up with great ideas. A happy workplace is more conducive to creativity. When people are encouraged, they are bound to be more innovative.
Disadvantages to wanting to be loved:
Discipline may suffer. When the rules are not implemented strictly, there is a tendency to ignore it completely. How can you justify penalizing a subordinate for a violation when just last week you forgave his co-worker who is guilty of the same fault? You may rationalize that his offense was more damaging, but he would still think you are being unfair even if what you are saying is true.
Overhead may increase to the point of making the company uncompetitive. Some people (admittedly a minority), in the desire to please the workers, give too much compensation and benefit. Usually these are given during a time when profits are booming. Unfortunately during bust periods, it is difficult or legally impossible to cut back on the compensation and benefits. And since our labor law mandates that all employees cannot be terminated without just cause, it is hard to reduce the work force.
You may get too involved in employees’ personal lives. While it helps to have knowledge of your employees’ personal lives, this has disadvantages. Employees may expect too much consideration—especially monetary consideration during times when they need it urgently. Always make the professional boundaries clear.
Nobody could lead by fear or love alone. The solution is finding the proper balance by taking into account your own personality, the personality of the personnel, and the needs of a particular situation. Despite all precautions, mistakes will happen and you must never fear to change methods nor should you love one technique too much when it is no longer applicable.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.