“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”  – Abraham Lincoln

At some point in life each of us are either following one or being the one others follow.  How often does it come to pass that each of us has had leaders we loathe and can’t stand?  How rare does it seem that each of us has a leader we would always go the extra mile for?  How is it that leaders often down to two basic characteristics; fear versus respect?

We all have had that overbearing, micro-managing, and out of control boss.  A person who for whatever reason(s) default to fear as a motivator to get things done.  Whether it rears its ugly head by threats, shoulder surfing, or in its simplest form – constant criticism.

Now it is easy to chalk up most of the excuses for leadership via fear to high stress, short deadlines, and themselves being under the leadership of someone who drives by fear as well.  When you realize that anger is a secondary emotion driven by largely fear then you can see how quickly many slide down that slippery slope when overwhelmed or pushed too hard.

There is a lingering effect that leadership through fear causes and that is paranoia.  Through constant threats and creation of a hostile work environment, the team members will grow paranoid that everything they do will be scrutinized, and in turn this will limit their capability to perform.  The overall performance takes a dive instead of increasing to its potential.  Team members who are driven by fear and paranoia will default to doing exactly what they are told and nothing more due to fear of repercussion or becoming the new target of the leadership by fear.

There are two pathways towards gaining respect from your team and in turn encouraging the team to perform at its full capacity and in some case outperform against establish expectations.  Understanding and education become the two hallmarks of a great leader.  When a leader takes the time to ensure all team members understand the task, but also the tasks importance to the project or mission at hand.  This creates true stakeholders.  When a team member lacks the knowledge necessary to perform the task well, a great leader ensures that the proper training can be delivered so the team member can be educated to be able to perform as needed.  This type of leadership creates an environment that team members feel they can express ideas, make suggestions, and perform at their best for they feel they are an important part of the business.  They feel respected and therefore show their leadership respect.  This is the environment and culture that produces results that can only be summed up as ‘going the extra mile’; whereas fear will only get you the mile.

So what kind of leader do you want to be today?