Rule by Fear

There’s an interesting article available at HBR on Managerial Tyranny. CEOs and executives since long have been utilizing this approach to achieve spectacular growth rates. This is even more true when the manager is expected to show quarter on quarter results. Out goes the nice guy approach and in comes the tyrant – a whip in one hand and measurable metrics in the other.

The Rule by Fear has been used in popular firms … everybody praises Steve Jobs on his design sense, but how many of them would advocate his iron fist approach during the hey days of Apple? Did you forget Jack Welch … he wasn’t called Neutron Jack without any reason.

So when should one crack the whip? Well, if your team is aware of the end outcomes and shares your desires to reach those outcomes. Then the means of cracking the whip and acting the tyrant is justified … until those goals are achieved.

Personally, I think that this approach can only be used to achieve results in the short term. Work culture in India at least is still dependant a lot on personal equations. If the team does not share the passion, then tyranny could be the main reason why they will leave the firm – this brings to mind the quote

You do not leave the job, you leave your boss

I wonder if this can be made sustainable?

2 thoughts on “Rule by Fear”

  1. Hi Prasad, 

    I agree with you. This is a short term approach. Time and again we have come across studies on what makes a good workplace and what motivates people to work. 

    This style of leadership did work in Investment Banking, in the years I was an analyst. However, it always leaves a bad taste in the mouth and all you feel as an employee is your loyalty to the reward/bonus/outcome and not the company/team/brand/larger vision.

    Now that I am in a creative field, I can say for sure that it doesn’t work in such fields, at least in the long term. Having a buy-in on the larger purpose and vision, offering creative freedom and an open environment is the way to go.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.