A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Is it Better to be Loved or Feared, reaffirmed what I consider the best way to lead. The article discusses the age old question, probably first contemplated by Machiavelli: “Are leaders better if they are more ‘lovable’ or ‘fearsome’?” These are generally mutually exclusive approaches to leadership, so trying to be both will be less effective than taking one approach and doing it well. However, the research cited in the article suggests the best way to lead is with warmth and trust.
Why put trust first
Although it is important to demonstrate competence (and be competent), you need to build a foundation of trust so that your team or company not only outwardly does what you say but also actually adopts—in a sincere and lasting way—your values, culture and organizational mission. The article points out that workplaces or teams lacking trust often have a culture of every employee for themselves; where they are more vigilant about protecting their interests than working towards the good of the company.
If warmth and trust are put above fear and proving your own competence, your team is more likely to make a positive judgment towards you and follow your instructions. Behavioral economists have shown that judgments of trustworthiness generally lead to much higher economic gains. Continue reading “Why it is better to be a loved than feared leader”