Why You Should Stop Leading Through Fear 

Confident leaders generally let their people do what they were hired to do. They don’t feel the need to watch them like a hawk, micromanage them in their tasks, track every move they make, or enact rules or policies that make them feel constrained and under surveillance.

Those steps are taken by leaders who lead through fear, creating the kind of culture that is marked by terror, timidity, and low morale. Here are 10 significant signs that you might be leading from fear. If they sound familiar, you need to drastically change your leadership style to clean up the toxic culture and begin creating success and happiness for yourself and your team.

People don’t interact. When people keep to themselves and avoid collaborating or interacting with others, it’s a sure sign that they’re scared to step out of line. If your employees’ main goal is to keep their heads down and stay in their own lane, your organization won’t be competitive.

Order is maintained through punishment. People who work in punitive environments are frightened most of the time. It’s incredibly demoralizing to feel you are constantly being monitored to be caught doing something wrong. Effective leaders spend their time listening to people, solving problems and celebrating successes, not punishing people or trying to catch them doing something wrong.

People don’t speak the truth. Under fear-based leadership, people are afraid to tell the truth because they already know no one wants to hear it. They keep problems and challenges to themselves because they know that that bringing them into the open won’t help and may even do them harm. The open communication that needs to happen for a team to work effectively is shut down completely.

People are constantly afraid of losing their jobs. When people work under a cloud of fear and suspicion, they act out of anxiety and timidity, and they’re incapable of bringing their best. You cannot work well with the notion that you can lose your job over a misstep. Your job as leader is to bring the best out of people, and that’s not possible in a climate of fear.

People are petrified of messing up. When people have a leader who addresses problems by penalizing someone, they learn to lay low and blame each other when things go wrong because they are scared to be the one who’s called out for a mistake. It’s one of the surest routes to a toxic culture.

The best and brightest don’t advance. With a fear-based leader, the smartest and most competent people don’t tend to advance. Instead, promotions go to those who most wholeheartedly embrace the culture and agree with whatever the leader says. Over time, unthinking agreement becomes the only way to get ahead.

People stop wanting to be visible. In a climate of fear, it’s hard for people to be authentic or present. They keep to themselves, worried about making waves or standing out. The main goal of most employees becomes to avoid being noticed, which leads to mediocrity across the board.

If you recognize this culture, you need to know that leading through fear is doing direct harm to your leadership, your team and your organization. It’s likely that many of your most talented and gifted people have already left you, so take immediate steps to make the necessary changes before you lose the rest.

Lead from within: As a leader, your job is to make people feel secure, safe and supported. If you are instead creating havoc, control and anxiety, you are a fearful leader and need to make some changes.


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After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Hamilton Lindley

    14. May, 2019

    Leading through fear is horrible. I’ve been in jobs like that, and it certainly stifles innovation and engagement. A manager should instead foster the talent that the employee has instead of trying to insist on perfection. When a manager insists on that, then the employee just quits trying mentally. It’s just too oppressive.

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  2. Eddy

    14. May, 2019

    I agree 100%. Also I need this info in spanish hahahah

    Reply to this comment
  3. PR TAFT

    15. May, 2019

    Oh my god! You have met my boss! Amazing!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Natural leader

    15. May, 2019

    One of the biggest issues leaders face is to leave fear at the door. Is humans are designed to fear the worst and that fear doesn’t help fix anything. It only exasperates the problem.

    From dream of looking bad to losing a job. There is no place for fear. It doesn’t help the team become closer to you. I fact it repels them from the leader.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Logan

    15. Jun, 2019

    A leader who leads thorough fear does so because they lack confidence, and have little to no trust in, or respect for, their people. Bottom line, that’s not leadership it’s primacy (at most).

    Reply to this comment

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