If your narrative is fear-based, you become the fearful and fear-giving leader. If you’re confident, composed and at peace, you become the caring and care-giving leader. You’ll lead with love. In the long run, the latter will always thrive.
Fear and love are at the opposite ends of a psychological spectrum. Those with a fearful mindset are pessimistic and cynical and this is mirrored in their approach to leadership. The leader who leads from fear assumes their negative attitude and outlook is shared by others. They utilise punishment, react rather than respond, and are known to sporadically march the warpath, leaving destruction in their wake. They communicate via blunt, one-liner emails, will blow a fuse before double checking, and will have an opinion or unhelpful story about anyone mentioned.
Their fondness of the warpath and penchant for wrath unwittingly creates an “us and them” culture. This only spirals into chaos that warrants further mistrust, so their fears become a self-fulfilling prophecy and their actions were vindicated. It keeps happening.
They project their own stress, uncertainty and pessimism through their team. It leads to cutting corners, prioritising reducing costs over adding value. Seeing clients as a nuisance rather than the reason the business exists. Backstabbing, whispering and gossip. Making decisions solely for the short term, at the detriment of the long term. It dictates how the team treats their clients and each other, how far ahead they plan and how safe they feel in their role.
The fearful aura of the fearful leader is felt by all in their vicinity. It’s not healthy or sustainable and in the end it all falls apart. Whilst fearful leadership might work in a widget factory, where a worker’s every action can be monitored and timed and checked against standards, it doesn’t translate to most modern workplaces. A fearful leader managing a remote team loses their mind with lack of control and surveillance. They’ve likely researched monitoring software, activity sensors and their fearful and mistrusting demeanour is only heightened through distance. Their team, now free from their physical presence, either thrives under freedom or looks for opportunities to rebel. Both outcomes widen the gap between them and the fearful leader.
The opposite to leading with fear is leading with love. Love, trust and kindness do not mean weakness. Rather, they mean building a strong tribe on a basis of respect and understanding. Leading with love means giving the benefit of the doubt, looking at problems from the perspective of your own shortcomings, rather than those of the team. It means acting for the hive, not the bee. Leading with love means training people well and trusting them to deliver. Guarding against bad eggs by planning a thorough verification process whereby only the most genuine and constructive of attitudes are let in. Setting the foundation for success at the first opportunity.
These types of leaders take pride in the work of their tribe without craving recognition for themselves. They are most likely to thank another for their contribution. Most likely to offer further training as a way of upskilling. Least likely to label a team member as incompetent. Least likely to become exasperated.
In the Super Attractor book, Gabrielle Bernstein advocates her choose again method for moving from fear to love, that leaders can incorporate into their toolkit. The steps include noticing your negative or fearful thought; for awareness of your current mindset; forgiving the thought; for recognising the role of undesirable thoughts in showing you what you actually want; and choosing again; where you find the best alternative feeling you can muster.
In practice, this stops the spiral of negative thoughts and helps a leader move from fear to love. It means a busy calendar can be reframed as a chance to meet amazing people. Uncertainty about a team member’s work is a chance to talk them through what’s expected and hear their ideas for change. A difficult conversation with a supplier becomes an opportunity to find a better solution. After consciously following the choose again process, it starts to come naturally.
Leading with love as opposed to fear means finding the certainty in uncertainty to reassure, guide and get the best out of teams. “I don’t know what will happen next, but I know we can be prepared for whatever it is.” “We’ve had some bad luck, but we have a lot to be grateful for.” “I expect there will be more challenges, but we’re more than capable of dealing with them.” It’s confidence and planning in order to respond instead of waiting and hoping in order to react.
A quick Google brings up various types of leader. Democratic, strategic, bureaucratic, and so on. Perhaps there are hundreds of subcategories, but I believe there are two overarching types of leader: those that lead with fear and those that lead with love. The former is unsustainable and exhausting and the latter is enjoyable and liberating. Take the steps to move from fear and towards love and watch your business flourish.