Successful Leadership – Fear or Inspiration?

I have recently been chatting with some friends who are at an about 5 year old start up whose management just makes you wonder how the heck they ever made it into a leadership position.

These recent conversations have also made me better understand how some people are really not fit for leadership and simply fall into these positions based on who they know, resumes they have built up, and perhaps people they have stepped on to get there. That said, it’s also made me appreciate the leaders who have lead by inspiration and truly believe in others, and by default others end up following them.

In my opinion, there are two ways of leading: 1) Leadership by Inspiration and Empowerment and, 2) Leadership by Fear and Arrogance.
What’s ironic is that I know leadership at this start up very well and have seen the leadership shift over time. I have seen it lead by a group of people who were inspired and thus inspired others, and have seen it now being led by management that leads by fear and arrogance.

What’s interesting is how bad moral and innovation is affected when fear is the main driver. When employees are simply “going through the motions” and all they care about is not losing their jobs. I am totally against this tactic. Think about this for a second. What happens when countries are plagued by fear? You see mass exoduses or defection, and the inevitable revolution. Sure, fear keeps the proverbial “assembly line” going yet isn’t it a matter of time until the people revolt? - And in the world of business revolting means not caring or looking for other opportunities. How can fear be an effective tactic? Especially in today’s world where there are opportunities everywhere, of course relative to the days of the baby boomers and before and ESPECIALLY in technology and the world of start ups. I personally have walked from opportunities a few times based on awful leadership.

As you can tell I am very much affected by this topic simply because leadership is something that I take very seriously and understand the impact that it has on people’s lives – both short and long term.
For me it boils down to what your motivation to lead is all about. You are either leading for the greater good or your selfish/arrogant needs. People forget that companies consist of human beings. Human beings that have families and friends and in the web world, often times are young trying to figure out their own path in life. Bad leadership can and will affect its employees. Trust me, it’s happened to me.

So I pose the question: What is it - Fear or Inspiration? What motivates you to succeed?