Fear is an ever-present component in everyone’s life. Fear can be healthy in some situations. Fear of failure can encourage you to work harder in order to achieve the goals you’ve set your mind to. Fear can also be debilitating. Using the same example as above, fear of failure can also mean you tend to make safe decisions since you don’t want to take risks. While you play it safe, it also means you deny yourself (and the organization you lead) the opportunity to grow.
Fear-based management style can be toxic. It creates a culture of fear within your organization and creates that same attitude in those who follow your lead. As a result, you miss out on the potential for growth and you are unable to harness the skills of your employees to the fullest.
What is Fear-Based Management Style?
Fear is present in everyone’s life. Even leaders have fears; this can be a surprising fact knowing that leaders are often viewed as confident and decisive. This is why leaders need to make a more conscious approach towards leading an organization if they wish to succeed.
The best leadership skills that one could possess are being bold and daring. This is in contrast with a fear based leadership style that can cripple your employees and hold your business back.
Why Fear-Based Leadership is Ineffective
A fear-based management style is characterized by the desire to play it safe. The leader fears mistakes and thus do not take risks or any chances. They are afraid to break the status quo. As a result, the organization does not innovate and it makes it difficult to stand out, especially in a competitive industry.
The toxic culture of fear created by this type of leadership also results in poor or mediocre performance for the organization as a whole. The employees are not connected or fully engaged. They do not have the motivation to think outside the box. While the organization is not failing, it isn’t growing either.
For this reason, fear based management style is ineffective. It impedes the cognitive ability of your employees because the leader does not challenge them to innovate. A fearful work environment could be what is holding your business back. And when employees have ideas, they second-guess it because their brain is wired to respond to it with a certain level of fear.
A fear based management style can also foster insecurity. Your employees – and even the leader – feel insecure and are made aware of their shortcomings. The lack of confidence in every member of the team stems from the leadership style. They end up questioning their own abilities.
And perhaps the biggest downside to leading with fear is the lack of engagement from your employees. A highly engaged workforce is critical to a more productive and successful organization. Without it, you don’t get the same level of effort and commitment from the members of your team.
Signs That You Are Implementing a Fear-Based Management Style
In order to implement the right leadership and management approach, it is important to identify if you are working on a fear based management style. That way, you can turn things around and implement a leadership style that proves more effective.
- You are leading with fear when you settle for safe decisions. You are afraid of failure, so you would rather not take any risks, even if there is a potential for growth at the end of it.
- You fear criticism. It’s a fact – you won’t be able to please everyone with your leadership style. But the best leaders are oblivious to the criticism of others, especially those outside of the organization.
- Your fear of conflict means you avoid making decisions that are difficult or have an impact on the organization. By avoiding them, you are only delaying the inevitable.
- You fear being disliked, so you do not question the existing status quo. Going with the flow will not get you or your organization to where you want it to be.
- You don’t take risks or make bold decisions because you fear that your vulnerabilities will be exposed. Instead, the best leaders accept those vulnerabilities and use them as a platform to inspire change.
- You fear change, so you stay within your comfort zone. The best leaders are the ones who think outside the box and challenge the norm.
Leading from fear, albeit unintentionally, can have a huge impact on the organization. Instead of being empowered, your employees feel pushed aside and disconnected from the leadership. That’s why it is best to avoid fear based management style whenever possible and focus on promoting individual growth and autonomy among those you lead.
Fear-based leadership refers to a leadership style where leaders rely on fear, intimidation, and threats to control and motivate their employees. It creates an environment of anxiety, low morale, and decreased productivity.
An example of leading by fear is a manager who uses aggressive language, public humiliation, or constant threats of punishment to compel their team to meet unrealistic targets or comply with their demands.
Dealing with fear-based leadership involves addressing the issue directly by providing feedback to the leader, seeking support from HR or higher management, fostering open communication channels, and promoting a positive work culture built on trust, respect, and collaboration.