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No leader will say “I run my team through fear,” and no one will have the guts to tell them they are! They have no idea they are fear-based leaders, yet they exist everywhere. And they think they are building a culture of quality and sustaining it by fear, instead they are ruining it and the team!
It is well known that leaders have a tremendous impact on the company culture. They set the agenda, prioritize work, manage, lead, and delegate. Strong leaders have visions, set goals, create purposes, are great mentors who inspire those they lead. While fear-based leaders impose their own vision, believe in only themselves, don’t trust their team and don’t delegate, they lead the team towards goals, but they lose a lot along the way. Leaders of quality build and conserve a quality of culture while fear-based leaders build a toxic one.

Leadership Influences Organizational Culture
Let us get one thing clear at first, a leader can be anyone with influence on the group, regardless of their title or position. An effective leader is fundamental in building a culture of quality because he or she can reinforce values while simultaneously holding people accountable. And failing to build the organizational culture is detrimental to employees.

What happens when you lead by fear?
1- People Stop Interaction
When people are scared, they won’t step out of the line or raise their voices, they will not attempt to address their leader if not asked to and they will avoid interacting with others. Their main goal is to stay in the shadows, try to do what they are asked to do quietly and discreetly. This influences the competition rate between the employees and between the organization and its competitors.

2- Order is maintained through punishment
Employees who work under the pressure of being punished become demoralized. Their productivity will decrease because they are constantly being monitored to be caught doing something wrong.
Effective leaders invest their time in listening to the team’s problems and trying to find solutions to create a healthy and stress-free work environment.

3- Risk of lying
When under pressure of being punished or yelled at or even humiliated, people tend to keep things to themselves. They stop sharing their problems or challenges because they think no one needs to hear them. No open communication.

4- Constant Fear of Becoming Jobless
When people are working facing the possibility of losing their job because of any mistake they may do, they act out of anxiety and timidity, and they’re incapable of bringing up their best.

5- The Fear of Messing Up
When the leader always points out any mistake an employee has made, the employee will tend to stay low and blame others when things go wrong. That creates and nourishes a toxic culture to work in.

6- Talents are hidden and Buried
While working under fear-based leadership, talented employees and the brightest of them eventually stop trying to shine or prove themselves, because the ones that advance or get promotions are those who genuinely agree with the running culture and everything their leader says. So eventually those talents will learn that agreeing without thought is the only way to get ahead. And what they must add is worthless.

To sum up, your job as a leader is to create a secure, safe, and supporting work environment where people can grow and make the organization grow with them. If you are instead creating anxiety and fear, you need to make some changes before it is too late!

What can be done?
- You can start by being a Role Model
You must exemplify the culture you preach, be respectful to implement respect, be honest to reinforce honesty, apologize when you should, etc.

- It is useful sometimes to sit back and observe
You will be amazed of how much you can learn by sitting back and actively observing what is happening around you to evaluate and rebuild.

- Make sure communication is easy for everyone
Provide open communication platforms, make it easy and accessible for everyone to communicate with you, increase feedback and provide immediate answers.

- Work on building autonomy
Autonomy allows employees to work harder and responsibly take actions and solve problems more effectively. When they feel trusted, they will outperform expectations.

- Recognize Successes
Valuing employee’s efforts and successes openly makes them happier and more eager to work. Their productivity will increase when they see that their contribution matters and what they do is meaningful.

One last piece of advice
In the end, if you are a leader, keep in mind that:
- Respect is not enforced but gained
- A culture of quality is based on open communication and engagement.
- You do not grow alone but by investing in new leaders.
- Know when to spread your wings and fly freely while being sure that no arrow will obstruct your way.
And if you are an employee working with a fear- based leader I hope this post is a good reason for you to quit this toxic environment!

Paul Dionne

Written by Paul Dionne