LQW: What are the causes, dangers, and implications of fear based leadership?

A few weeks ago I posted a Leadership Question of the Week on courage.  Now I want to discuss the other side.  As I mentioned in that pose, I often see leaders lead in fear.  I see it in contemporary life.  I see it in the Scriptures and I see it in me at times.  So the question has been put in the title:  What are the causes, dangers, and implications of fear based leadership?  I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

2 replies
  1. R. Michael Fisher
    R. Michael Fisher says:

    I have similar concerns Gary, in and beyond the biz world. R. Michael Fisher says,
    I have similar concerns. I am grateful the “fear-based” concept is getting the attention it deserves, and I am also somewhat critical of how we don’t nuance it often enough. The article I just published is entitled: “The Problem with Defining the Concept of ‘Fear’-based'” (free pdf http://csiie.org/mod/page/view.php?id=3 scroll down for document). I am looking to have more dialogue on this topic. Here is the full Abstract:
    Abstract: Over the past 25 years of systematic research on fear and fearlessness, the author has found an ever-increasing use of the term “fear-based” by many and diverse authors, teachers, professionals and citizens-at-large. Particularly in the last decade the term, much like “culture of fear,” has become popular across disciplines and is reflective of an interest, by diverse peoples, in human motivation at this deepest core “emotional” level. Most every writer-critic, in a binary (polarized) way of thinking, believes (or argues) that “fear-based” is negative and destructive, if not the source of all conflict, evil, and pathology—it appears a universal knowledge and “truth” that this is so. Love-based is usually held up as the opposite (i.e., binary stance). Although the author (a fearologist) has also taken that binary positioning for many years, upon recent philosophical reflection and some research, this is less than a satisfactory position, especially without nuancing its validity more systematically and without having the critical dialogues required to ferret out what we are talking about. He concludes, typically, this increase of usage of the “fear-based” label, important as it is, has not been very enlightening but rather repetitive, moralistically judgmental and cliché, because of little to no conceptual defining, theoretical critiques, specific measurable assessments, or critical thinking of what to do with the term “fear-based” when it is opposed (for example) to “love-based” in real life situations, with real actors and organizations coming from either fear-based or love-based paradigms. The many (and increasing) critics of anything “fear-based” always implicitly or explicitly identify as not fear-based (i.e., more or less, love-based) and morally superior. Without more critical analysis of the concept and its uses, the author feels the labeling starts to become embedded in ideology, secular and religious, turning at worst into extreme violent ideologism—an oppressive way to think. This introductory paper, a philosophical reflection based on fearlessness (and a critical integral approach), offers an initial discussion of these problems of using the label “fear-based” and offers some recommendations of how to improve our methodologies, claims of truth, and teaching (i.e., education about, for example, fear and love as root motivational constructs).

    -R. Michael Fisher, Ph.D.


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