We used to call ‘honorable’ men, “God Fearing”. “He’s a God fearing man.” As if to say fearing god made you a good person, or made you the kind of person that would always make the good choice for fear of gods wrath. I find that there are people among us who would lead this way. The phrase “it is better to be feared than respected” comes to mind.
Leading through Fear:
The definition of Fear I use is – “The Anticipation of Pain”. So the inspiration for following the leader is to avoid the potential pain that might come if you don’t follow the leader. Through this lens we are spending our time looking for the worst of possibilities. I guess when you are being motivated by what you don’t what I can’t call this inspiration.
Examples of leading through Fear:
I was bullied most of my school life and often lived in fear of others. I don’t know if the kids that I feared thought to lead in that way, but that is how I navigated the waters. I remember calling it respect, but trust me it was fear. I used to fall in line and do what I thought the person wanted me to do because I feared the consequences, even though I never saw any of these consequences.
I find it neat to juxtapose this reality, that I knew, with so many of the stories and movies in our culture which show the opposite. How many times have we seen plots where the first time a ‘bully’ is stood up to the bully’s power quickly vanishes and he runs away the coward. This was the plot of almost every Popeye cartoon that I can remember.
For example “A Bugs Life” which was essentially the story of the Ant and the Grasshopper? In this particular rendition the grasshopper bullies the ants into giving up most of their winter stores for the grasshoppers existence, even thought there are only a dozen grasshoppers and hundreds of ants. Again leading through fear.
The teen movie 3 O’clock High is the story about a guy who has to face the bully in a fight after school and no matter what this ‘weakling’ kid does he cannot avoid his fate. He eventually faces this terror and even though the bully puts up a fight and eventually runs away the underdog earns the reputation of one who will not be pushed around and earns respect from all of his peers for standing up to his fear.
What got me thinking of this topic is watching examples where people ‘bully’ their way through life. Getting what they want by being belligerent. I believe their power is given to them by those that fear them. I find that these bullies often have little or no self image which provides them with their own source power to weather life’s little trials.
Without someone to push around these bullies are powerless.
Leading with Respect:
I believe the biggest difference in leading with respect with where the leader gets the bulk of their power from. The power comes from within. This sustains the leader without having to diminish anyone. The biggest result of this type of leadership is, I believe, the leader not being threatened when their team/followers are successful. If you lead by respecting the strengths and capacities of another their success adds to your success.
Leading through fear is a Zero-Sum game. By this I mean that someone has to suffer for someone else to fell empowered, stronger, better, whatever.
Leading with respect is a cumulative game. You start with your power and strength and give it to others whom you choose to empower.
So again I ask, “Are you leading by inspiring those around you?”