NOV 25, 2015 @ 03:29 PM 55,159 The Little Black Book of Billionaire Secrets
The Five Characteristics Of Fear-Based Leaders
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I don’t believe there’s a manager anywhere who would say “I manage my team through fear.”
They have no idea that they are fear-based managers — and no one around them will tell them the truth!
Nobody thinks they’re a fear-based leader, and yet there are fear-based managers everywhere.
People misunderstand what the term “fear-based manager” means. It’s true that these managers wield a big stick and use it to club their employees into submission. They use fear to control people instead of trusting their teammates and inspiring them to do great things.
Yet the term “fear-based manager” doesn’t only refer to the fact that these lousy managers threaten their employees and keep them on edge in order to keep them compliant and docile. The term “fear-based manager” refers to the manager’s own fears, as well.
The reason so many managers treat their employees as badly as they do and keep them in line with unnecessary rules, policies and punishments is that the managers themselves are in a state of fear. They don’t know who they are behind the business card.
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.
They don’t feel whole and healthy. They don’t have the self-esteem to build anyone else up and make the people who work for them feel strong and capable.
My first-grade teacher was that way. She put us down. She regularly told me that I wasn’t smart or pretty or talented. Even as a six-year-old I thought it was strange for a grown-up to spend her energy trying to make a first-grader feel bad.
My spidey sense knew something was off. My teacher was a nun. Who knows what her childhood had been like? She couldn’t have been more than twenty-two or twenty-three years old at the time I knew her.
People who feel bad often try to make the people around them feel even worse. A grade-school teacher has a lot of power and control over the kids in his or her classroom. Likewise, a manager or supervisor has a lot of power over the people in his or her department.
You can easily see how fearful people put into management positions 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 also take pride and almost delight in treating their employees like dirt.
The false sense of bureaucratic power conferred on them by higher-level managers becomes a substitute for self-esteem. Healthy people grow their muscles throughout life, but unhealthy, fearful 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 organizations without having any self-esteem at all except the phony kind that other people bestow on them.
Here are five unmistakable signs that a manager is mired in fear and not someone who can grow your flame. Watch for these signs on a job interview and do not take a job working for someone who displays these characteristics. You will regret it if you do!
They’ll Teach You, Whether You Like It or Not
Our client Bogdan narrowly avoided working for a painfully fear-based manager about six months ago. Bogdan realized after two interviews with his possible next boss, Alison, that every time they spoke or met in person it was very important for Alison to teach Bogdan about business and her own personal leadership philosophy.
“I couldn’t say a word when Alison was ranting on about her views,” said Bog. “I realized that she wanted to hire me only to teach me what she knew and beyond that, to teach me exactly her way! I finally got out of the interviewing pipeline and got an angry email message from Alison a day later.
“She huffed and puffed in her email about how I would never succeed in business or life after having the bad manners to refuse her generous offer to mentor me. I knew I dodged a bullet that day!”
Alison wasn’t looking for a new hire to help her department. She wanted a protege, and she thought Bogdan would make the perfect one. “It would have been hellish working for Alison,” he told us.
“It’s her way or the highway. She is not open to new ideas, least of all from a person who reports to her. She wanted to hire an empty vessel to fill up with her ideas. I found another job, but I would have stayed on unemployment rather than take a job working for somebody who’s afraid not to be in charge every single minute of the day!”
Everyone is a Friend or a Foe
Fear-based managers evaluate everyone they meet and quickly decide whether each person is 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.
Fearful managers 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. It’s not worth it to you to pretend to be meek and pliable when you interview with a fearful manager.
They’ll sniff out your true nature and try their hardest to stamp out your flame at every opportunity. Fearful managers specialize in squashing other people’s self-esteem!
It’s All about the Trophies
Fearful managers don’t 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 ten minutes of meeting you how lofty they are, just to make sure you don’t forget that they are more important in this world than you are. Run away from a manager like that!
They Don’t Step Outside Boxes
Fearful managers 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 or podcast 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 twenty years ago and insist that you buy the same book and read it right away, if you want to work for them!
They’re 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 KPIs and other weenie business tools even more than most managers do.
We met a young woman name Grace who had worked for a manager like that. “We measured everything at my old job,” she said. “I was an internal recruiter. We had a brainless metric called Time to Fill. They tracked the number of days it took me and the other recruiters to fill each job opening.
“That made no sense because you could obviously make a less-good hire more quickly than the perfect hire, and I always worked in close harmony with our hiring managers to make them happy with their new team members.
“I got sick of being measured on my Time to Fill metric and I started calling our recruiting pipeline partners like universities, community colleges and trade associations every week or two just to stay in close touch with them. One quarter my Time to Fill average was one day – one business day!
“To get my Time to Fill number so low, I was always meeting candidates whether we had job openings or not, and I was always honest with the job candidates about that.
“Our hiring managers did the same thing. Eventually we got to the point where we could say ‘The next time we have a job opening, we’re going to hire Sally Philips’ and we basically had Sally on speed dial.
“The quarterly numbers came out, and my manager called me in and threatened to fire me for gaming the system.
“I was only being proactive, the way we are always told to be!
“My manager didn’t like process improvement. It offended her. She said “Obviously you’re not working hard enough!”
“I gave notice and went to work for a competitor and never looked back. Six of my teammates from that company followed me. I will never work for a fearful manager like that again!”
The old ways of doing business are slowly giving way to a smarter and more humanistic approach, but if you’re not paying close attention you could end up working for a fearful manager like Grace’s boss and live to regret it.
Keep your spidey sense on high alert and remember that only the people who get you, deserve you!
Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap. Follow her on Twitter and read Forbes columns. Liz’s book Reinvention Roadmap is here.