Never outshine the master is the 1st law, in the controversial book The 48 Laws of Power, published in the late 1990s. The idea behind this suggestion – on how to gain and maintain power – is that subordinates should always make their master appear more brilliant, and bosses/leaders should inspire fear and insecurity at all times.
In the same breath, the movie productions Devil Wear’s Prada or Office Space both express a similar sentiment. They show an extreme portrayal of what a fearful boss would be like – one who strikes terror by just a look, their presence, or a simple email.
Historically there are just a lot of examples of leaders who use fear as a tactic. The best would be Adolf Hitler. He and the Nazi Party crushed opposition through legal moves, fear, and intimidation. Consequences of his iron-fist rule are still felt to this day, and just his name inspires fear.
Teams that fear their leaders will tend to do what is asked of them, but only just enough to get by – to receive their paycheck hustle free. Creating “paycheck employees” who perform only just to keep their job.
Team members under a fearful leader will typically not take initiative to think outside the box to come up with innovative solutions. Basically, you might never get the best performance out of them.
Top on the list of Signs You’re in a Toxic Work Environment — and How to Handle It, sits Narcissistic Leadership which is defined as a leader who always wants teams to agree with them expecting everyone else to be perfect while they tither on lower standards.
It is important for leaders to be aware and mindful of the impact they can have on their teams, partners, and even suppliers. Lack of intentional mindfulness can inadvertently have people be afraid.
While commanding authority comes part and parcel with being a leader, there needs to be a clear understanding of the difference between ‘fear’ and ‘respect’.
Respect is not inherited because of your title, or power it is mostly earned. That may be common sense, but it is not common practice.
Great leaders must be respected to be successful, but earning that respect takes time and effort. When your team members respect you, they are more likely to work harder to accomplish a shared goal they believe in.
In many cases, it starts with the leaders. They need to show respect to their teams not in exchange for respect but for the greater success of the organization.
There also has to be an understanding that when people respect you, they may disagree with what you are suggesting. They might also not like you as a person but respect guarantees that performance and productivity won’t be affected.
Leaders who earn respect often are much more successful than those who demand respect, and there are ways to achieve that tricky balance.
When you are respected is people’s discretionary effort. People will go the extra mile for you. They will anticipate what makes you happy. They want to contribute. When you are feared they won’t do that.
So if you so desire that your team respects you as a leader in the organization, then you have to deliberately build a culture around that. We’re suggesting a few ideas on how you can cultivate respect, not fear:
Humans find routines, and rules comforting. Ground rules give people a clear expectation of what is needed.
As a leader be clear about what success looks like. Take the guesswork out to increase the likelihood that your teams understand, and can deliver on what is required.
Everyone wants to do a great job, so ensure that there are systems in place for the team to achieve success from the get-go.
See the invisible because inside every team member lie seeds of greatness.
Authentic leaders are able to recognize team members’ potential, and effectively inspire confidence for them to bring it out for their own benefit and that of the organization.
Don’t just deal with team members as per what they present. Instead, focus on what they can be.
In last week’s article, we talked about how to upskill teams into intrapreneurs. Intrapreneurs are self-motivated, proactive, and action-oriented team members within the organization or by the customer.
Do what you say. Lead by example.
As a leader, frequently ask yourself if you are displaying behavior that you desire your teams to mirror and demonstrate to their colleagues, clients, and partners.
Also, Humility goes a long way. Be humble and admit to mistakes that might have been caused by your action or inaction. It shows maturity on your part and encourages accountability from your team when they err.
Positive thinking and enthusiasm are contagious.
It cannot be that as a leader you are grumpy, negative minded and have a scarcity mentality. A leader should be a vibrant carrier of the organization’s vision, goals, and mission.
It gives your teams a sense of direction on the attitude they are to embody while working for your organization.
Demonstrate curiosity. Ask questions and be willing to learn from even your juniors.
Using the tactic of open-ended questions puts out an invitation for people to join the conversation and not be afraid to share their opinions.
In the event that someone does share their honest opinion, don’t chastise, mock rebuke, or steal the idea to go present it to further higher-ups or clients for you to shine as a leader.
Also, remember to always give credit if a suggestion is taken into consideration. It will encourage people to share more ideas, knowing that they are welcome and it’s for the greater good of the organization.
Empower your teams. Push decision-making down and watch results go up!
Allow your teams to make as many decisions as they can, with limited micromanaging interference from the leadership.
Innovative, mobile, nimble organizations operate like this. They train, equip, and empower their teams to operate each at their own level with confidence that they have the support of the organization.
Being firm but fair is another deposit in your leadership account.
Show people you care. You can be as tough on your teams, just like a sergeant in the military, but let them know that you care about them. Once someone knows you have their best interest at heart, even when you are being tough, they will learn to respect you.
In conclusion, always remember that great leaders are remembered for their impact on the teams they’ve worked with and how they made people feel.
Leaders who leave a good feeling in someone’s career path, are remembered fondly for their influence in shaping their personal journey.
The path you choose as a leader is really up to you, but at the end of the day, it will determine your ultimate legacy.
Featured Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.