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Tricia Jones > All Posts  > Business  > Do you lead by fear or fervour?

Do you lead by fear or fervour?

As South Africans, we are inundated with messages of fear. Be it from our television or cellphone screens to our political conversations, we feel more afraid of the world now than we have in decades. But all that fear isn’t good for us. According to this article, fear can have long-term consequences on our health, including “fatigue, chronic depression, accelerated ageing and even premature death”. The last thing we need is leaders and managers operating out of fear, causing more distress and anxiety in our workspaces and lives. Read on to discover the roots of fear-based management and five ways you can change your behaviour to lead from a place of confidence.

Don’t get me wrong; fear is a very effective motivator, even if it comprises an unpleasant feeling. There is just no arguing against the fact that leading by fear can get things done. For humans, fear is a primal motivator and deeply engrained in our being. It’s why we’ve come so far. However, we don’t need that intense kick of adrenaline and cortisol when we’re living simple lives in safe buildings and predator-free areas. To add insult to injury, leading from fear and with fear has long-term consequences on all those exposed to it.  

Read the signs

Being a feared leader may seem like a good thing, but fear and respect does not walk hand-in-hand. Here are a few signs that your leadership-style is fear-based:

·        People don’t interact.

·        Order is maintained through punishment.

·        People are constantly afraid of losing their jobs.

·        The best and brightest don’t advance (because the people who follow the rules, never speak up, and compliers of culture are often chosen above innovators and thought leaders who might step on some toes).

My question to you is: If fear pushes people away, are you leading towards, or away from your employees?

If you must run, run in the right direction

It feels like we’ve come full circle since this blog post I wrote on new year’s resolutions, which highlights the highly relevant ‘Away from’ and ‘Towards’ strategies.

‘Away from’ Strategy:

This strategy thrives on the existence of fear. It’s otherwise known as a short-term motivation strategy and will lose momentum soon after trying to achieve results. Micromanagers represent a perfect example of people who thrive using the ‘Away from’ approach. They are often perfectionists that are extremely self-reliant and have a fear of relinquishing control to their employees. This fear of surrendering control or not achieving results, can be likened to a person running away from a threat. Unfortunately, it makes their team or employees want to run away too.

‘Towards’ Strategy:

The ‘towards’ strategy promotes an environment that’s not driven by fear, but rather by positivity. You move towards the things that scare you (with a plan in place, of course): you move towards trusting your team and take steps to move towards leading from confidence and not from a place of fear. A true leader fosters an environment of freedom; and in this freedom, people follow their leader out of fervour, rather than fear. When led by passion, employees let down their guard. They will readily discuss their ideas with you and admit their mistakes without difficulty. They will see their mistakes as learning opportunities and will be eager to devise solutions and take preventative measures for the future. A spirit of honesty and transparency is therefore naturally established in the workplace (Source).  

Confident leaders generally let their people do what they were hired to do. They don’t feel the need to watch them like a hawk, micromanage them in their tasks, track every move they make, or enact rules or policies that make them feel constrained and under surveillance.

Five steps to leading with confidence

Apply the following five behaviours to start retraining your brain to lead from a place of quiet confidence, and not from your trigger-happy reptile brain.

1.   Highlight accomplishments instead of consequences.

2.   Put (SMART) steps in place to practice ‘toward’ strategies, instead of ‘away from’ ones.

3.   Be eager to take risks. Surveys conducted for Find the Fire showed that 75 percent of employees could barely remember their boss encouraging them to take a risk even once in the past year.

4.   Decide to be decisive. Step back and ask yourself the true impact of a wrong decision – more often than not, it’s never as bad as the catastrophe we’re concocting in our minds.

5.   Relinquish control. Delegate some tasks, trust people to do their jobs, provide constructive criticism, encourage employees and give them s p a c e. 

Changing habits takes time and practice. Try new ways of leading that promotes more collaborative and positive outcomes. As a bonus, you will see greater progress, engagement and productivity in the workplace. You’ll feel better mentally and physically, too.

To get in contact with me about our Towards Strategy Questionnaire, which can help you gain a better understanding of your leadership approach, pop an e-mail to coffee@triciajones.co.za, and we can figure out precisely what you need to fight the fear and lead with confidence.  


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