February 27, 2020

“The Dark Side” – Fear-Based Leadership

 |  By: Elizabeth Griffith

“I expect”, “I want”, “Do it this way or else…”

You enter the barn and the employees immediately feel intimidated and on guard.

Your team has a difficult time looking you in the eyes.  They are running around quickly to just get the job done and keep themselves in your good graces.

You have developed a group of “yes sir” and “yes mam” employees.

This is fear-based leadership and it is ineffective, especially in the long run. Your employees are more focused on reaching your goals than focusing on how and why and what needs to be done for improvement.  These employees are not working together effectively because they are more concerned with protecting their jobs.  

Have you ever considered what the repercussions of fear-based leadership are?

  1.  Employees are fearful of losing their jobs or promotions.
  2. Employees are afraid of failure.
  3. Employees will not raise concerns or share ideas.
  4. Employees will not take risks to improve.
  5. Employees will be quicker to blame others.
  6. Employees are afraid to tell the truth.
  7. Employees are stressed.

Because of this stress, employees will leave and leave fast.  This sounds more like a horror movie than an effective and engaged group of employees.

Unfortunately, many leaders don’t recognize how they are being perceived by their employees. And, as mentioned above, their team members are too afraid to let them know. 

If you are reading this article and you find some similarities with the way your employees act and react, you may be a fear-based leader.  As the saying goes, “acknowledging the problem is the first step.”

What can you change to move from a fear-based leader to one that promotes self-confidence, communication, problem-solving and success?

First, being a good leader means spending less time on the actual tasks and more time teaching, coaching and guiding.  A good leader should not be a “doer”, meaning, in order to be effective, a leader should spend less time milking the cows and more time monitoring how your employees are doing.  You can’t analyze the process if you’re working in it.  An excel spreadsheet does not tell you everything you need to know.

What can you do?

  • Provide positive criticism.
  • Provide recognition for a job well done.
  • Focus on the “how’s” of their success since that is what matters most.
  • Listen to your managers and employees, without judgment.
  • Communicate often with your managers and teams.
  • Talk about the “elephants in the room”, don’t avoid them.
  • Allow your teams to share ideas.
  • Collaborate and experiment!
  • Explain the “why’s” in a manner they can understand.
  • Promote for the right reasons.
  • When you need to fire someone, let your teams know why that person was let go.
  • Bring in humor and compassion.
  • Instill confidence in others.
  • Stay calm; never let anger get the best of you!

Whether you have learned this type of fear-based leadership skills from others or have created it yourself, you can change direction. Own your behavior and be a leader who will coach, listen, train and positively influence your teams!  Your result is a culture where everyone is part of bringing your business great success.  Welcome to the light side