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Why Fear Based Leadership Is Counterintuitive to Self-growth

It was the year 1899 when a child was born to a middle-class family. This child had to undergo a lot of struggles and had to face a lot of obstacles before he reached a leadership position. However, rather than gaining confidence in his leadership, he started leading by fear. This child became the tyrant Adolf Hitler-one of the most ruthless leaders of the world. He changed the course of history for all times to come. This makes us wonder what is fear based leadership, and what are the harms of it.

Fear based leadership is when leaders lead by fear. They have a fear of not being included, fear of failure, fear of unknowns, fear of change and fear of criticism and fear of status. All these fears combined can make leaders unable to fulfil their true potential. 

In this article, we will discuss why fear based leadership is counterintuitive to the essence of leadership in the 21st century. If you have adopted this style, read ahead. You will realize that you have been doing it all wrong. It is time to change, and your road to revolutionizing your style starts today. So let’s get started. 

What Are the Disadvantages of a Fear Based Leadership?

Common sense dictates that fear based leadership only reduces your impact as a leader and makes you less influential in society. Here are the many reasons why you should avoid adopting fear based leadership. 

1. People Feel Hesitant While Expressing Opinions

Working under a leader that adopts a fear based leadership style is not easy. It makes people feel pressured and under constant threat of surveillance. This makes people hesitant while expressing their opinions or showing dissent. As a result, the overall environment of the office gets affected: people do not give in their all and are not actively involved in the decision-making process. 

2. Order Is Only Maintained Through Punishment

Fearful leaders are insecure about their position and their job security. They are always on the lookout for people who can take over their job or undermine their authority. To maintain absolute control by maintaining order. The difference is that inclusive and participative leaders maintain this order by developing trust in leadership. However, fearful leaders do it by making others afraid of making mistakes. This can look like people having their salaries cut or getting unpaid leave when they make the smallest of mistakes. 

3. Are Afraid to Speak the Truth

Another disadvantage of fear based leadership is that it makes you want to cover up your mistakes and incentivizes you to speak lies. Since you are afraid of accountability, you will not own up to your mistakes. Truthful or honest leaders do the exact opposite. They realize that they are just human and as much capable of making mistakes as the next person, so these individuals can easily own up to their mistakes and the consequences that follow. 

4. Are Constantly Fearful of Losing Their Jobs

Even if these leaders have all the necessary skills and expertise to excel at their jobs, they still do not trust the system or themselves enough to feel secure in their job. They have two main fears. Firstly, they believe that they will be replaced by someone more skillful. Secondly, they feel that the employees will stand up to them and overthrow them, either peacefully or through forceful means. This makes them act out in unimaginable ways. 

5. Do Not Instill Loyalty Toward Organization

A democratic or transformational leader sets the bar really high for everyone else in the organization. These leaders follow the highest standards of ethics and morality and convince others to do the same. They are also able to inspire change and instill loyalty in their followers or associates. However, leaders who lead through fear do the complete opposite. Populous leaders like Donald Trump are not able to instill long-term loyalty in others. 

6. Do Not Develop Trust in Leadership

Leaders make mistakes: this is a truth set in stone. Anyone who denies that leaders are just human beings who are capable of failing from time to time is delusional. Leaders that adopt a fear-based leadership style are unable to gain the trust of their followers or associates. They are doubted about their intentions, their plans, and their words. These leaders are less likely to be followed blindly when there is a crisis situation. 

7. Incentivizes a Culture of Hate and Harassment

When leaders are not secure and lead by fear, it creates a toxic environment in the rest of the office. Others feel that they can also do as they please and break rules from time to time. Since there is less accountability for the leader, there is also little accountability for everyone else. This makes people exercise unnecessary control over others. All in all, it leads to an unwelcoming office environment. 

Also Read: How good leadership skills can cure a toxic workplace?

8. The Best and Brightest Do Not Advance

Everyone knows that the best and the brightest of employees are the ones who initiate plans and try to do things outside the norm. They are the ones who generate dissent and believe in active discourse. However, under fearful leadership, this is often not possible. Leaders like that often do not welcome any input from the best and brightest of the office. This is because these leaders do not want anyone else to gain prominence within the office and gain an active following. 

9. Emerging Leaders Do Not Appear

Emerging Leaders Do Not Appear In Fear Based Leadership

An office can not thrive and excel until and unless it encourages others to come out of their shells and take initiative. However, emerging leaders only appear when the office environment facilitates a positive environment; an environment that credits and encourages people to step out of their comfort zone. In the presence of leaders who adopt a fear based leadership style, potential leaders find no incentive to do better. 

10. Make More Mistakes

Imagine a school with a bunch of kids, and imagine the teacher adopts a fear based leadership style. His students are afraid of him and do not dare to speak any questions. What would happen? The students will continue making mistakes and will continue losing their motivation to do better. In much the same way, leaders and managers do not welcome questions within the office. This makes the employees figure out everything themselves, and this leads to them making a lot of mistakes. 

Why Should Leaders Not Adopt a Fear Based Leadership Approach

1. Reduces Their Impact and Influence

When leaders adopt a fear based leadership style, they may be getting their work done. On the surface, everything might look okay. However, leaders who lead by fear do not generate a lot of impacts. Their orders may be followed on the outside, but most of their team will not get any inspiration from them. Moreover, these leaders do not make any transformations to the status quo because of their low impact. 

2. Makes Them Easily Replaceable

Leaders should be the pillars that hold a company together. They should culminate in a position that is so strong that no one can even think of replacing them. However, that is not the case with leaders who adopt this style. Such leaders are just tolerated, neither celebrated, nor respected. This makes them easily replaceable within an organization. 

3. Makes Them Easily Forgettable

As a leader, you may be able to bear being replaced. However, no one wants to be forgettable. Leaders want to be remembered for their contributions. When leaders lead by fear, even their good deeds, and their positive contributions are neglected because people only remember all the hurt they have caused. Their employees will remember them for their harsh words, and their peers will remember them for their unwavering and stubborn attitudes. 

4. Does Not Allow Them to Create Positive Change

It is not that leaders who adopt this style are generally bad people. It is true that they sometimes want to work for positive change. However, they have been taught to believe by society that the only way they can command control is by instilling fear in others. This hence stops them from being able to create any positive change in society. 

Also Read: How Exclusive Leadership Deteriorates the Essence of a Growing Company?

Become a Leader That People Love With Best Diplomats

Become a Leader With Best Diplomats

If you want to be a leader that others can respect and value for their contribution, you need to make a conscious effort. This begins with an effort to train yourself and surround yourself with people who can teach you the essence of leadership. Luckily for you, Best Diplomats provides you with the perfect opportunity. 

At Best Diplomats, you learn the essentials of leadership, like confidence building and public speaking. You also get to meet people from all walks of life, listen to their inspiring stories, and learn from each of them. All this teaches you humility, and you become a much more rounded individual. 


Fear based leadership may work in the short run. It may help you sustain your power and even get things done. However, in the long run, fear based leadership style leads to a lot of harm. It not only discourages people to develop loyalty towards you or your brand, but it also makes them lose respect for you. Additionally, it hampers the overall growth of a company. Employees who work under such leaders lose the motivation and inspiration to give in their all. And as a leader, that is the last thing you want for yourself or your organization. 


What Are Examples of Leading by Fear?

Most leaders of the past like Stalin, Lenin, or even Adolf Hitler believed that the best way to gain a massive following is to lead by fear. They used to be unwelcoming towards any suggestions or advice was given to them by their followers. In the current world, leaders who adopt this style are hesitant to change and get overwhelmed when they have to share power with any of their followers. 

How To Overcome Your Fear And Become A Great Leader

In order to overcome fear and become an exceptionally great leader, here are a couple of things you can do. 
1. Face your fear and take challenges head-on, so you do not feel insecure. 
2. Tackle the root cause of fear so it does not reappear. 
3. Do not let your job take over your life. Maintain a good work-life balance. 
4. Imagine the worst so you can act preemptively. 

Is It Better to Lead by Fear or Respect?

If you want to gain short-term benefits and want to convince your team to follow your lead, you can lead by fear. However, if you hope to build trust in leadership and get long-term benefits, leading with respect is a much better option. This is because your team tends to be stronger and more operational when they respect you and your authority. 

Can Fear Be a Good Motivator?

Fear may be an uncomfortable emotion, but it is also one of the strongest motivators of change out there. When you are afraid of a situation or fear failure, you tend to work harder. However, the opposite is also true. People who get fearful easily tend to feel insecure about their position and hence act accordingly-sometimes against their best interest. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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