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Accountability of Self | Fear Driven Vs. Respect Driven Leadership


What Kind of Leader Are You? While leadership can come in many different forms, most of the time you will find that there are mainly two types of leaders. These are: fear driven leaders and respect driven leaders. Let's cover the latter first.


Fear driven leaders get results through just that - fear.


They operate under the premise that in order to get respect and results, they must rule with an iron fist. Common tactics for this person are put-downs, intimidation, aggression, and volatility.


We recently lost legendary coach Bob Knight who epitomized this style of leadership. Players, coaches, and referees alike, all feared him because of his volatile temper and harsh leadership style. While Knight won 3 NCAA Championships while head coach at Indiana University, this accomplishment is often overshadowed by his infamous uncontrolled physical outbursts.


This included an incident in 1985 where, while playing against rival Purdue, he picked up a chair and threw it across the court after receiving a technical foul for another outburst just moments before. Eventually, his volatility led to him being ousted from the program after choking (yes, choking) a player on his team during practice.


Bob Knight throwing a chair

While this style can produce results, oftentimes, what it produces more of is destruction. This type of leadership relies on external motivation to get results. Someone who is an external motivator is the person that's going to crack the whip or lay the hammer down on people if they get out of line.

This is just enough to get someone to give you the bare minimum to get the desired results. I do not believe that this is the most effective way to lead people. As a Christian, my example is that of Christ and I never saw Christ do this when leading others. Does this mean you are touchy-feely wimp who people just run over? Of course not (see accountability of others in the next section).


Ultimately, this style of leadership is rooted in insecurity. If you believe you need to maul, manhandle, and belittle people to get results, what you need to do is take a good long hard look in a mirror and ask yourself why.

When comparing fear driven vs. respect driven leadership, there is one main motivational difference and that is based on where the motivation for the leader comes from. The motivation for a fear driven leader is typically rooted in selfishness.


Their needs most often come before those of others and because of this they can never really truly take on the form of a servant leader. This limits the amount they are able to pour into someone else to develop them.


Conversely, the respect driven leader gets results from just that - respect.


This is a much more potent and powerful way to lead others. A respect driven leader is patient and slow to anger, supportive, and genuinely cares about people. They are motivated and operate with selflessness which is the opposite of the fear driven leader.


This type of leadership produces much more potent and longer lasting results because the drive to produce is internal vs. external. Here is what I mean by that: with a fear driven leader, all of the drive comes from external motivators like fear.


For instance, someone who is afraid of getting yelled at does the bare minimum to keep this from happening. There is no internal motivation to do any more than that nor do they want to because no one wants to overperform for someone who is a jerk.

With a respect driven leader, the drive to perform comes from within the person. They perform and are willing to go above and beyond because they don’t want to let the leader or team whom they respect down. This is a much more potent style of leadership and one that is rooted in trust and respect that flows both ways.

Another key for this type of leadership is the people who work for them are not afraid to make mistakes. I am fond of saying, “if you are not making mistakes, you are doing something wrong”. What I mean by that is this: if you are not trying new things and making mistakes, you are not growing.


In the case of the fear driven leader, people knowingly engaging in something that could result in failure would require a Xanax sandwich with a side of Prozac fries to take this risk. No one wants to step out on the ledge to grow if they know they are only going to receive vitriol if they don’t get it right the first time. This stagnates growth, limits possibility, and destroys morale.


At the end of the day, what kind of leader you are, what kind of leaders you make, or what kind of leaders are running your organization will determine your culture.

So if you look around and see a lack of engagement, low morale, high turnover, and minimal results, you might want to start asking yourself some hard questions.


So now that we have compared fear driven vs. respect driven leadership, what kind of leader are you?


If you are reading that and feel punched in the heart strings because you have been a fear driven leader, it is never too late to make a change.


You may have left quite the wake of destruction in your path and I am not going to blow sunshine in your ear and tell you that it is all magically going to change after a week of you going in another direction.

It is going to take some hard work and quite a bit of time to right the ship, but it can be done. The beauty of this life is this: every day is a new day and we can choose each and every day we wake up, what path we want to take for the day.


angry and happy woman comparing fear driven vs respect driven leadership

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