Have we ever stopped to think about how our team members respond to our leadership? Do we lead by respect or fear? I remember certain leaders whom I would go to extremes to provide them with what they requested immediately as I did not want to be on the receiving end of a tirade. Or, I would get a sick feeling in my stomach when I saw their number pop up on my cell phone, wondering what was wrong now. When I reflect back on those experiences, I find it a very sad state of leadership. I felt as if I was unable to have a productive relationship with these leaders due to their style of leadership by intimidation. You did what you had to in order to stay off their radar screen. Unfortunately, most of us have encountered leaders such as these, leaders whom we feared instead of respected.
Thankfully, I have encountered just as many great leaders that I had immense admiration for due to the way they led with respect for their team. These leaders led with high regard to their team members, not a high regard for themselves. These types of leaders were easy to be around, they expected the best out of us, but did not scare us into producing excellent work. They believed in an open and collaborative environment. Having such respect for these leaders made it easy for everyone to work hard and do what was best for the organization.
I believe that leadership by intimidation occurs when a leader’s ego gets in the way. When an over-inflated self worth overshadows the purpose of leadership, this leader believes they can get the job done any way they want, even if it means belittling team members. The sad part to this line of thinking is this type of leader believes their team has great respect for them. In reality, these teams perform out of fear.
Don’t confuse leadership intimidation with leaders who are tough when they need to be. Leaders may need to exhibit a tough facade when there are issues at hand. However, it is possible to be tough without compromising the respect you have for your team members. True, your team may not enjoy having a difficult conversation with you, but having these conversations in a respectful manner shows that you care and want the best out of them.
Respect is earned, not coerced through intimidation. How do you lead?