Byron's Babbles

Fearmongering Leaders

“I’ve observed many leaders manage people through fear and intimidation” (p. 89). Randy Conley said this in Simple Truth #33: “Fear Is The Enemy Of Trust” in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. Unfortunately, we have all probably experienced it. Conley also rightly pointed out that this fearmongering can take many forms. Many times this undesirable behavior is triggered by the leaders own fear and inadequacies. Leading from fear can create a toxic culture in which people play safe, avoid mistakes and lay low in effect creating an organization that does not grow due to mediocre performance and unrealized potential. I have experienced leaders leading by fear and it caused a profound impact on whether people in the organization felt connected, cared for and empowered, or pushed aside, constrained to make decisions and held back to voice their opinions. I’ve even experienced people getting yelled at for bringing up something they had observed or heard someone asking. The leader doing the yelling failed to recognize the importance of the perception in the field she was be made aware of. All she did was cause the person getting yelled at to say later, “I’m never giving her a heads-up again.” Clearly, the empress did not want to know she had no close! A team had been created that would do things they knew would fail because they no longer wanted to say anything for fear of being berated. Not a good community to be building.

The other thing I have noticed about fear-based leaders is that the best and brightest don’t advance. One, the bad leader does not want an “A” person to possibly be showing them up, so they advance “C” and “D” people. Instead, projects and promotions go to those who have “drank the Cool-Aid” and embrace the toxic culture and agree with whatever the leader says. Our job as leaders is to make those we serve feel secure. It is also important for us to love those we serve by keeping them safe and supporting them.

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