“Pride is a better motivator than fear. I never wanted to teach through fear, punishment, or intimidation… Who would I prefer to work with, an individual who has great personal pride or one who is fearful of punishment? That’s an easy choice for me. Remember, pride comes when you give respect.”
John Wooden, Wooden
We are all leaders. Every day people watch our example and listen to our guidance, whether we realize it or not. So, to be an effective leader in a business, a group, a community, or a family, you must decide how you plan to motivate others. Will you threaten with the whip (punishment)? Or, will you appeal to the best within others (pride)?
Plenty of fear-based leaders have been war heroes, championship coaches, and political leaders over the years, and it is hard to argue with their results. But, you must ask yourself this question as a leader: do the ends (the wins, the profits, the results) justify the means (your treatment of others)? Is it acceptable to win a championship while squashing the people we’re leading? Do we want to win at the expense of our people’s growth or because we have helped them to become their best?
Motivating by fear or by pride can look the same from the outside, at least in the short term. They can both achieve desired results. But, fear-based leaders can’t turn their backs. When they stop pointing the gun or stop offering rewarding carrots, the results stop too.
This reminds me of a an idea from the ancient Chinese sage Lao-tzu in the Tao De Ching:
A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
So in the end leadership style comes down to intentions of the leader. Do you intend to respect the people you lead? Do you intend to build them up instead of putting them down? Do you intend to be tough and firm in a way that demands the best people can give you? Do you intend to let others take the credit and celebrate their victory, while you silently slip towards the back and smile with satisfaction?
Leadership is a privilege. After we are long gone, the echoes of our impact on the lives of others are really the only part of us that lives on. You are a leader, both at home and in the community around you. When people look to you for guidance or for inspiration, how will you choose to lead?
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