Chapter 88. Trust Is a Powerful Leadership Tool

Seth Dobbs

“Is it better to be feared or loved?”

This is a somewhat cliched interview question for potential leaders that is intended to try and capture how a leader wants to be perceived. There are die-hard advocates of each answer as well as people who are deeply opposed to one or the other. I like to dissect this in terms of the goal of a leader, which I believe is to influence individuals, teams, and organizations to effectively deliver durable results.

Fear can certainly be a motivator to complete tasks. Team members who are afraid of some form of punishment, be it being yelled at, losing a bonus, or being fired, will absolutely be motivated to avoid that negative outcome. There are leaders who take some pride in this—that their team members fear them a little bit. Again, this can drive people forward and get them to complete tasks and meet deadlines, but if we look at the “durability” goal for leadership, this approach ultimately fails. Most people don’t want to work in fear; the stress and unpleasantness of that kind of environment will lead them to find an opportunity to get out whenever they can. Even short-term results can be jeopardized because people are doing whatever they think will let them go unpunished rather than what they think is right. I’ve always felt that the moment someone fears losing their job is the moment ...

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