Leading with Love vs Fear

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Love or Fear: Which to Choose?

The answer is: LEAD WITH LOVE +

How does love have anything to do with business?

Without people, there would be no business. Without people, there would be no reason to have a transaction. The very nature of business itself has to do with “making a living through commerce or transactions.” If a person relied on themselves for everything, there wouldn’t be a need for business. Business is for humans. It is true that business can take place today through automation or straight-through processing but there is a name behind it and there are people behind the scenes still working on behalf of this business. While there may come a time when artificial intelligence forms a company and runs a business, we aren’t there yet. So, let’s establish that business and people are intertwined. People have personal needs, so says Maslow and they need to meet these to feed themselves and their families. They also seek to achieve self-actualization! Before a person can achieve and realize a state of harmony, they require a sense of love and belonging. It is safe to say that people will perform at their best when they can be themselves and be loved.

If leaders lead with fear, people cannot achieve self-actualization and will not perform at their best. The decision to lead with love is not an easy one. Leading with love is costly to the heart. If people reject the leader as a person, that can be difficult for the business as well. It is still important to understand what leading with love means and why it is the best action for the business.

The Feeling of Motivation

Humans are still tribal. We naturally associate ourselves with others and subconsciously label ourselves with “us vs them.” Each of these associations has a connectivity tether that binds our geography of passions.

I am who I am based on the connectivity and fidelity of my tethers.

We must navigate life in the same way a sailor navigates the ocean. Beneath the waves and waterline, there are miles and miles of treasure and unknown, unexplored land. We still ride the waves looking toward our destination without a clue of what is below the surface. As people, we go through our lives heading in some direction.

As we think about and focus on where we are going or what we are trying to achieve. We are still managing and working through the complexity of who we are. Who we are is much more than what we believe about ourselves. It is the company we keep. It is the associations that other people make for themselves about us. We have to manage our own complex thinking about ourselves and the complexity of what other people think about us. This thinking can be based on what we are not just who we are.

These are important concepts to think about when we seek to lead other people. What motivates one person may demotivate another. If we have common concerns and passion, we may find common motivation. Common motivation comes from the feeling of belonging, reciprocity, and purposefulness. Most people would not choose to do something on their own without something to motivate them. Motivation is not good or bad, it is an incentive to behave or perform in a certain way.

Leading people with love or fear is closely associated with motivation. If we stick with this concept of tethers, people can be motivated through group connectivity and individual connectivity. For example, a journalist may be motivated to leave her children and head into a war zone to report on the situation on the ground. As a mother, she has assumed attributes to protect her family and be present for her children. Her association with the “greater good” or purposefulness in her work may override her assumed persona of “mother.” She may believe that because she is heading into a war zone, she is teaching her children to do the right things and that they understand what mom is doing. Let’s start to dig in just a tiny bit into this just a little.

We don’t know anything about the woman, how she grew up or what lies beneath her waterline (a sailor on the water analogy). What we do know is that she made a choice to do something that may not make sense to everyone.

The basic logic here may go something like this;

Mom = protector, caretaker, nurturer, responsibility, etc. We know this is not true of all people but we can say this is fairly common. The next question would concern the basic level of protection for children. Some may believe that being present is important. If the mother isn’t present, she would need the next best thing, a proxy. That said, something would have to be very important to leave the job of taking care of her children to someone else. What would motivate a mother to go into a war zone and leave her children to someone else? Would it be fear or love?

Let’s say mom is working for News XX. News XX pays mom a low wage, forces her to come into the office, doesn’t value what she thinks, and, is motivated by high ratings over honest and honorable journalism. Her boss Jan Slammerson is nasty to mom, always tells her that her reporting is below par and in this case, told her that if she doesn’t go to warzone Z that she will lose her job. What would mom do?

What if the situation was a little different? What if mom’s boss Jan told her “We need you to go to the war zone because you are the best person for this situation.” If she told her that as a News XX person, people need her expertise and her perspective. People are counting on her and News XX is counting on her because she has value to all. What would mom do?

If mom is of the News XX tribe and of the journalism tribe and the “greater good” tribe, all of these motivate her to take action. The scale is tipped by her perception of overall value.

Of Fear

Some believe it is better to be feared than loved. Fear can motivate people to take action but fear also comes at a great cost. All the money and power in the world may never fill the void of a person who doesn’t understand their own self-worth and value. Leaders are driven by the idea of using fear for immediate effectiveness. Fear doesn’t bring out the best in people however it can drive people to take action.

Dr. Karl Albrecht, a writer for Psychology Today, looks at fear as an overall emotion.  He says that, if you truly dissect it, all fear is born out of one of five things:

(1) “Extinction”: the fear of not being around any longer, or the fear of death.

An example of this is the fear of dying.

(2) “Mutilation”: the fear of the body being negatively altered, or the bodily space being invaded. 

An example of this is the fear of losing a limb, or the fear of a snake or spider bite.

(3) “Loss of Autonomy”: the fear of losing the ability to move or operate freely.  This could be as it relates to physical movement, according to Albrecht, it can also be as it relates to socialization (i.e., relationships.)

An example of this might be the fear of being paralyzed, going to prison, or something that might elicit similar feelings, such as being overwhelmed without an ability to see a way to gain control.

(4) “Separation”: the fear of being abandoned, not loved, rejected, or being connected to others. 

An example of this might be the fear of being left as a child or as a spouse, of being socially rejected or being ousted from an association with others in some way.

(5) “Ego-death”: This relates to the fear of losing self-respect, or erosion of feeling worthy.

An example of this might be anything that causes humiliation or discredits oneself. Attibution

Most studies and surveys show that leading through fear only gets a person so far. Why use it?

Critical Thinking for Leaders

Given the choice between two things, I always choose the third! The idea of love vs fear in leadership as applied to business is important to understand. As mentioned earlier, love has its own costs. People may misinterpret love. Some may see love as weakness. Many people look at kindness as a weakness. If we lead with love, we also require respect. In many of my posts, I refer to Respect, Trust, and Integrity. I believe these together with love create the best environment for people to be successful.

What do you think?

Posted in KM.

One thought on “Leading with Love vs Fear

  1. You can love and be afraid at the same time. Fear has been said to be the opposite of love, but there is a lot more to this than on the surface. Pain and suffering are part of life, and we can fear having it as mentioned by just five ways here or we can overcome it with love. What we fear the most is our imperfections, and we dig into this fear mostly by thinking we can control it by our actions. Imperfections are part of life’s journey and by fearing them, we set ourselves up to be frustrated and afraid of our own shadow. Leaders that lead by instilling fear demotivate their subordinates by not allowing room for imperfections. Instead, leaders that instill “wonder and possibilities for success” in their subordinates can acknowledge that we all are not perfect, but we all are trying to be more perfect towards each other and our central purpose for our actions, at work or home or in between.


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