Chapter 6

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Chapter 06: Is it Better to be Feared or Liked

If you were to stop reading here and just work with all the information we’ve covered so far, you would now be a leader who was inspiring, courageous and well equipped to motivate their team. You can even help to weather a storm and keep your team motivated and calm when things That’s a great start but there’s a lot more to it than that.

For example, there is the small matter of knowing how you are going to control your team. Because so far we’ve kind of dealt with an ideal scenario where everyone believes in your vision and you are all working toward the same goal. Like the Queen song…

But what happens when some people really don’t want to be there? What happens when two people think it’s all just a joke?

What happens when someone has a bad attitude and is just trying to create problems for everyone?

This is when leaders can be split into two groups.

You have the one group that will plead with their staff and attempt to be ‘liked’. They might make it into a joke, try to be on the ‘same page’ against the system, or to generally chummy up.

Then you have the other type of leader that will instil fear and tell the member of staff that they will be fired or sent to another department if they continue.

Machiavelli asked whether it is better to be ‘feared or loved’. So which is it?

Well, Machiavelli himself actually said it is better to be feared. But that was in a very different time and place.

Suffice to say that it is not good to want to be best mates with your staff. This is perfectly demonstrated by the character of David Brent from The Office who is more interested in trying to be funny rather than being in charge. Unfortunately, there does need to be some distance between a leader and their team and it’s important that you maintain a little respect. Once your team has seen you drunk and curled around a toilet at the office Christmas party, it will impact negatively on your ability to instruct them on what to do.

Likewise though, taking a fully ‘fear-based’ approach is also a mistake. This ultimately makes you into the enemy and it creates a stressful work environment for your team. It also prevents your team from attempting to be fully creative or expressing themselves because they will be fearful of repercussions.

So we need to reframe the question. Is it better to be feared or liked? Neither – it’s better to be respected. You need to be calm and in charge in such a way that people want you to like them. That will be a) because they respect you and b) because they understand that you can help them and that you want what is best for the team. If your team sees what you do for them, knows you believe in what you are doing and respects your ability and your capabilities, then they should respect you. If you present yourself as capable, calm and cool, then they should want your respect as well.

And guess what? One of the very best ways to gain respect is to show someone else respect. The best way to be liked is to be nice to someone – to be likeable. The best way to be respected is to be respectful so that there is a mutual understanding.

A good leader needs to be able to work with colleagues from all walks of life and should value what each of them brings to the team equally. In fact, more diverse voices will mean a more diverse set of opinions and views and more diverse skill set!

And so you can occasionally make jokes at your own expense, join in with the fun and even allow others to point fun at you – this shows confidence and strength. The key is to make sure you don’t allow this to cross a line and that you don’t tolerate staff trying to push their luck by taking a joke too far, seeing how far you will go or being disrespectful. Likewise, you mustn’t allow them to test the limits of what they can get away with and this is especially important because it can be unfair on their team and also set a bad precedent. Once one person realizes they can, clock off early or stretch their cigarette break to 20 minutes, so can everyone else.

But of course, you can’t just punch someone who is causing trouble in your team. So what can you do? How can you ultimately demonstrate your authority and get someone to sit down and get on with their work? If your attempts to motivate and to demonstrate the reasons behind your requests aren’t working, then what can you do to deal with dissidents? That brings us to the next chapter…

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