Google "Leadership Fear or Love" and you will get views, articles and books from Machiavelli to John Hope Bryant. Whether it is more effective to be a feared leader or one that is loved is an age old conundrum with no agreed answers and clear historical trends.
Due to the lack of majority, the general view tend to move towards a combination of the two but common sense suggests that it is impossible. These are two extreme behaviours that logically cannot co - exist.
This article begs to differ and put forward the argument that it is possible, effective and proven. There is a catch though. We will need to redefine "fear" and the implementation has to be conscientious and closely managed.
Most newly minted managers will struggle on which kind of leader he wants to be - specifically two broad categories of "feared" and "loved". Countless number of books, hours of mentoring and nights of troving the internet later, he will likely be more confused then ever. Everyone seems to have different views. After some time in the position, he will find that he had subconsciously skewed towards one way or the other and this is very much determined by his character and values.
Armed with more experiences, successes and failures, this leader often ask the same question again, ready to re - calibrate if need be. He still could not determine whether to be feared or loved makes a better leader. He then decides to have a combination of both and equally quickly, conclude that it can't be done. Fear and love are two ends of two extremes. How can anyone adopt both? In the end, many continue taking on one or the other, again depending on personality and values. It brings no one closer to the answer.
But it an answer that is important as it goes into the very fundamentals in the study of leadership.
Drawing from and reflecting on more then 10 years of management experience, I believe that the most effective way is a conscientious (and not character dictated) effort to combine both love and fear. But not in equal proportions and by implementing fear in a softer, indirect manner. These I will highlight later.
Loving your leader gets you out of the bed in the morning, to use a cliche term. It motivates you to fight the daily battles. It gives the inspiring perception of your manager leading from the front and at the same time concerned about his men at the back. Needless to say, this will bring up the level of performance in the individual or within the group. However, a certain amount of fear needs to be injected occasionally especially when there are members in the team who are not self motivated. Some subordinates might get too easy with a loved leader and let the guard down. When this is combined with a lack of self motivation, performance will dip. As such, the manager will occasionally need to instill fear. It will remind everyone that work is still work and that the loved leader do have significant control on your progression, career and life in general.
However, there are 2 critical side strategies to make this successful.
1) Fear should not be striked using it's most common definations i.e. fear of losing your job, fear of being belittled in front of co - workers etc. Fear should be defined and communicated in a more subtle and softer approach but with no lack of similar impact. The manager should move along the lines of failure in career, failure in making the family proud, failure in fulfilling obvious potential etc. It should take on a tone that the manager is truly concerned with the subordinate's well being and the discredit failure in performance will bring to the subordinate himself.
To illustrate this better - when a manager is addressing a subordinate on weak performances, the traditional fear statement will be, " If you don't buck up and improve your performance, I will fire you". My suggested way goes like this, "If you don't buck up and improve your performance, it will leave a negative record where ever your career brings you. This is not what I want to see happening. I want you to be successful". The fear impact is still substantial. But when communicated in this way, it mix in seemlessly with aspects of love, concern and a sincere management attempt to guide and groom. The wide divide between love and fear and the unnatural attempt to combine the two as mentioned earlier, can thus be overcomed.
2) A successful leader should conscientiously alternate between love and fear leadership styles as the circumstances arise. However, for all it's advantages, the leader should still attempt to be loved most of the time. I suggest a split of 80% love and 20% fear. Some of you will think that these numbers are ridiculously scientific for the art of management. But the percentages are not meant to be exact maths. It is just a guide and a feel.
It is important to emphasize again that the leader will have to implement this love / fear mixture conscientiously. This is to make sure that the natural character do not take over and love shown substantially more then fear (80 / 20).
In my field practice of managing sales, marketing and management teams, I will deliberately recall the number of occasions I had exercised love to an individual. I will then decide whether it is time to balance out with fear when the latest situation calls for either one of these actions.
To illustrate better - In the last 12 months, a sales person has missed his quota in 2 performance appraisals and was caught with disciplinary issues on 2 other occasions. On all 4 occasions, I recall adopting an easy, encouraging style. When faced with a 5th performance situation (whatever it may be), I will skew towards fear and deliver a message such as," David, when I recruited you, it was because you showed a lot of promise. It hurts me to say this, but for your sake I will have to - we've all been disappointed so far. I am sure you will not want to join us as a success but leave as a failure".
I have implemented this style of leadership for more then 10 years on many different subordinates. The people have proven to deliver above average performances year after year. I am convinced that it is worthwhile for managers to consider this approach. Or at least, explore furthur into it.