Saturday, October 4, 2014

Liked or Feared? What's the Ideal form of Leadership?

Should a leader be liked or feared? In my opinion, a long-term successful leader should be liked and respected. Someone feared, might eventually become hated and challenged  by mutiny or revolution.

An example that comes to mind for me is the leadership style of Alexander the Great who connected with his soldiers on a down-to-earth basis that fostered their respect. He would walk through their camp and talk with the soldiers and during battle, fight on the front lines with them.

Although he was able to keep his distance as a leader and not become too much of a peer, being open to them and spending time among their ranks produced an undying loyalty that helped him conquer much of the Mesopotamian world.

To me, being liked as a leader does not imply having an equal status as a direct peer or friend. It includes much respect and an overall benevolent attitude toward the leader. With this kind of attitude, followers will like their leader and accept their commands because they have built trust in their style of leadership. Fear remains in power only as long as it takes to be overcome.

Think of our own emotions. Often they take a leading role in our lives and influence our behaviors and actions. When fear is in charge, it stays there until we face our fear and do the thing we fear regardless of our feeling. We don't like that fear is in charge so we keep trying to overcome it and most often we eventually do and in the process we grow.

What do you believe? Should a leader be like or feared?


  1. By connecting with your followers you show them many things. Most all you show them you care. One of my favorite quotes by John C. Maxwell is "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care." Appropriately applied, servant leadership can remove the question of whether a leader is liked or feared. At any rate, fear is not the avenue any leader should take. I have witnessed this "lead by fear" approach practiced many times and watched it crumble each time.

    Thanks for the good read. I wish we could inoculate all leaders with the message you have presented here.


    1. Thanks for the intelligent response. That quote resonates with me as well. 'Leading with fear' is an approach that tries to control those below while the servant leadership strategy you mentioned, requires trust in the process. It requires the leader to let go and trust in their followers. That kind of response will definitely get better results as the followers will feel valued as individuals thus increasing their competence and proficiency. They don't have to worry about punishment and will have more freedom to experiment.