Leaders: The people in our office that we report to, sometimes look up to, but always try to please. Why are they in charge?
Someone believed that they had the ability to manage those underneath them, so they were anointed from above. Liz Ryan, expert on the new-millennium workplace and former Fortune 500 HR executive, explains, “Let’s not forget that what’s significant about the conferred-from-above leadership status is that it gives extra power to the person who’s been named leader. That power is inextricably linked to fear”
Is a person chosen for this position because they are influential or because they successfully know how to instill fear in others? Fear should be eliminated from this equation, but is still prevalent in corporate management today. Workers are afraid that if they do not impress the person an charge, than they will be punished, or in the worst case, fired. Those in leadership positions should be focusing on more important things: making sure they’re team is working productively together, and easing tension between members whenever it arises. Unfortunately, fear in this setting has a way of reducing productivity rather than promoting it. A leader should be put in this position because they are knowledgeable about the tasks assigned for the team. They are experienced and trusted.
In her article, Ryan describes the great number of leadership conferences and workshops she has attended. They are filled with ‘so-called leaders’ that are given quick tips about how to manage others, but few actually have these characteristics to be an effective supervisor. They are feared, but lack knowledge and influence. Often times these people are put in highly-regarded positions, but do very little in terms of work.
This bureaucratic style of leading is diminishing. Ryan explains, “The age of human workplace is here.” It is imperative that we escape this fear-based culture and focus on teamwork. While one person is in charge, anyone can lead when it comes to ideas and projects, and it is the leader’s job to facilitate this. If a person is not afraid of getting fired, they can freely express their ideas without their superior’s power constantly weighing down on them. A leader should be used as a knowledgeable resource and a coach that is willing to listen but is focused on the success of the group. Personal gain should take a back seat.
We will continue to report to our superiors, hopefully look up to them, and always try to please them out of respect, not fear.
This can all be rooted back to a few basic questions: Should fear be completely eliminated when it comes to leading, or does it have some positive effects as well? What makes a successful leader? How productive can someone be living in fear?