Written by: Dale A. Hicks, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Certified CEO Effectiveness Executive Coach

business-513665_1280“I’d rather be feared than respected!” Who has not heard this outdated leadership model? Most likely from the same bosses who believe that: “people do only what they must,” “employees seldom do their best, unless they fear the consequences,” and “most employees cannot be trusted to do what is best for the organization” or, more simply, “most employees cannot be trusted.”

It is not likely that such bosses received many hugs on National Hug Your Boss Day. As Bill pointed out, “what (such) bosses receive from others is compliance disguised as commitment, and their companies and employees pay a steep price for this.” Often, these costs (e.g. low employee morale and job dissatisfaction, high absenteeism and employee turnover, and a wide range of passive-aggressive behaviors that sabotage the company’s bottom line) are not recognized by the boss and, if they are, he or she likely attributes them to the character of the employees, rather than to the leader’s mental models or the organization’s consequent culture. This, in turn, reinforces the leader’s beliefs regarding employees and the necessary requirement of management to “keep them in line.”

A more enlightened leadership style can be found in Max De Pree’s Leadership is an Art
(2004), in which he states, “People are the heart and spirit of all that counts.” He argues that, “Leaders owe the corporation rationality” and that, “A rational environment values trust and human dignity and provides the opportunity for personal development and self-fulfillment in the attainment of the organization’s goals.” He goes on to state that, “many people in large organizations relish apathy (and) often fail to see the signs of entropy, which [people] include leaders who seek to control rather than liberate, leaders who rely on structures instead of people, and a loss of confidence in judgment, experience, and wisdom.”

Throughout my career, as an employee, consultant, coach and practicing psychologist, I have found that too few employees want to hug their bosses. Rather, they perfunctorily, and with little enthusiasm, perform the necessary minimum requirements to preserve their job. Their leaders certainly do not, as Bill stated, “liberate energy, commitment, creativity and respect in the work force.”

But some leaders and organizations do get it right, as evidenced by Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Workplaces for Millennials in 2015” and other such lists of best places to work that are published each year. Fortune cites “attention to career development, creation of new opportunities for employees and open communication” as strong considerations in high rankings and that, apart from perks and benefit programs, millennials highly value “collaboration, support among employees and fewer internal politics.”

So how did “respect” get such a bad reputation, such that “fear” is perceived to be more effective? Paraphrasing Miriam Webster, “respect” is defined as someone who is esteemed, held in high regard, admired as good, valuable, serious and important, and who should be treated in an appropriate way. That sounds to me like a pre-requisite to enlightened and effective leadership.

Only by challenging outmoded leadership models and embracing self-knowledge in the service of all, can we hope to have engaged, satisfied, loyal and highly productive employees. Bosses who “liberate” this potential in those they lead truly deserve to be hugged, not only by their employees, but by the company’s shareholders and external customers.