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TERROR BASED LEADERS

By Kholwaphi Mdziniso | 2017-11-14

Ryan (2015) says no leader would openly say that I lead my team through fear. 

People who lead through fear have no idea that they are fear based leaders/ managers and worse no one around them will tell them the truth. Nobody thinks they are a terror based leader, and yet there are terror based leaders and managers everywhere.

People misunderstand what the term ‘terror based leader’ means. It is true that terror based leaders wield a big stick and use it to club their employees (I use the term employees instead of team member because terror based leaders view team members as non- equals) into submission. They use fear to control people instead of trusting their teammates and inspiring them to do great things.

n Terror based leaders are afraid of themselves

The term ‘terror based leaders’ does not only refer to the fact that these lousy leaders and managers threaten their employees and keep them on edge in order to keep them compliant and submissive. The term ‘terror based leader’ refers to the leaders own fears, as well.

The reason so many leaders treat their team members as well as employees as badly as they do and keep them in line with unnecessary rules, policies and punishments is because the leader himself is in a state of fear. They do not know who they are behind the business card and the title of ‘leader’.Their professional identity is their only source of personal power, and they more than anyone else in their sphere know how fragile that power is.

Terror based leaders do not feel whole and healthy. They do not have the self-esteem to build anyone else up and make the people who work for them feel strong and capable. Hence they spent their time telling people how incapable they are.

People who feel bad often try to make the people around them feel even worse. A leader/ manager has a lot of power over the people in his or her department. Yet for a terror based leaders that is not enough.

You can easily see how fearful people put into management positions, such a people would not only devote their lives to pleasing their 'superiors' by becoming almost machinelike in their devotion to the structure of business, the rules and punishments and obsessive measurement, but they also take pride and almost delight in treating their employees like second class citizens.

The false sense of bureaucratic power conferred on them by higher-level leaders becomes a substitute for self-esteem. Healthy people grow their muscles throughout life, but unhealthy, fearful leaders and managers get their fake self-esteem by hitting the marks that other people tell them to hit.

The traditional top-down business framework substitutes made-up and often arbitrary goals (and associated punishments and rewards) for authentic muscle-building that comes from inside, the personal growth that healthy people develop naturally by trying new things and learning from their experiences.

That's why fearful managers can get pretty high up in organisations without having any self-esteem at all except the pretentious kind that other people bestow on them.

Most of the fear based leaders tend to have a view that says “myway or the highway”. They are not open to new ideas, least of all from people who report to them.  When they hire people they want to hire empty vessels to fill up with their own ideas.

Ryan (2015) share some insight on how to identify a terror based leader. Leaders can reflect on the guide to see if their leadership style falls under the terror based style or not.

n  Everyone is a friend or a foe

Terror -based leaders evaluate everyone they meet and quickly, they decide whether each person is a predator, or prey. Anyone who looks like a predator, including a job-seeker who shows a little too much self-confidence, is shown the door at once.

Terror based leaders are afraid of everyone they meet until they establish that they can cow and bully them. Fear and hostility are two sides of the same coin. They turn into pit vipers when their authority is questioned. They will sniff out your true nature and try their hardest to stamp out your flame at every opportunity. Fearful leaders specialise in squashing other people's self-esteem!

n It is all about trophies

Fearful leaders and managers do not feel good about themselves. They amass trophies like job titles, budgets, big staffs and professional credentials to prop up their fragile egos. They will let you know within 10 minutes of meeting you how lofty they are, just to make sure you do not forget that they are more important in this world than you are.

n They do not step outside boxes

Fearful leaders do not want to learn anything new. They already know everything they want to know and have no interest in exploring new ideas. If you want to learn whether a prospective new boss is fearful or confident, ask him or her what new and thought-provoking ideas he or she has heard lately. A confident manager will tell you that they found a recent article very interesting and they want to learn more about the ideas shared in it. A fearful manager will tell you about a book they read 20 years ago and insist that you buy the same book and read it right away, if you want to work for them!

n They are addicted to yardsticks

Lastly, people in fear are addicted to measurements. They want to nail things down and feel in control, and nothing spells fake control like measurements do! They love Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and other weenie business tools even more than most leaders.

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