What’s the magic formula of a good leader? Most people will say they admire leaders who are:
- Strong communicators
- Consensus builders
- Strategic thinkers
- Savvy about business
- Good listeners
- Open to admitting mistakes
- Willing to share credit for success and celebrate with the team
If you’ve spent more than a few years in the workplace, you may wonder if such a person exists.
Leaders — like most people—want to be liked and respected. Yet some follow the path of fear, believing that workers who are apprehensive and live with trepidation will be productive.
They come from the mindset that work is not a popularity contest.
Martin Addison writes on TrainingJournal.com:
A dictatorial management style based around fear and control can be effective for some teams or departments. For example, for those working in a set and specific role in a highly structured environment. If you want to control people and get them to undertake certain tasks, through orders and instructions, then fear and intimidation can work as a way of getting people to do what you want.
The downside is that fear creates mistrust. In an intimidating environment—or where people are fearful of losing their jobs—they may work hard but they won’t deliver to their real capability because they’ll want to ensure that they don’t make mistakes. They won’t rock the boat or take risks because they won’t want to get punished. As soon as they feel that there will be consequences if they don’t succeed, they’ll stop performing.
Does HR seem busier when a manager is feared and not loved? Some employees may complain while others are afraid to gripe to HR because of their bosses’ management style.
A more spiritual and gentler approach to supervising others comes from Tao leadership. A post on Tao-in-you.com maintains that the best leader “is one whose existence is barely known by the people.”
“I have heard my master say that nurturing life is like keeping a flock of sheep,” says author Chuang Tzu. “You lash the last sheep, and the rest will move.”
The leadership style is effective and effortless.
It is so different from bulldozing. It is Tao leadership.
You hold a whip in your hand, but you are kind to the flock. You lash only when it is absolutely necessary, and only on the last sheep—one that makes the whole flock move.
Instead of pushing, you work on the nature of the flock. Although the flock is totally under your control, it follows without knowing that you exist.
The challenge, of course, is on knowing where the last sheep is.
These two examples of leadership show us two very different approaches. Somewhere in the middle is your organizational philosophy.
After all, whether leaders manage and communicate with love, respect, or fear, it sets the tone for your corporate culture.