Fear School

Early in my career selling training programs I made a call on one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies. I was selling a variety of training programs but the one I was focused on during this call was Leadership Training. 

I asked how the company was currently developing their leadership teams and they said they were in kind of a gap period. In fact it had been awhile since they offered any formal training to their leadership team. 

We talked about what they had done in the past and they told me that all new managers were required to attend what they called “Fear School.” It was management training designed to help the new manager understand how to put the fear of God into their people. They had used their Fear School program for literally decades. They were now struggling with turnover and recruiting issues so they thought perhaps another approach might be in order. 

You may think that putting fear into the minds of people is an ineffective way to get them to do things. You would be wrong. It is very effective…just not for very long. Putting fear into people makes them compliant. They do what they are told because they fear the consequences of not doing it. 

They do it but they seldom do it well. They seldom do more than the minimum required to avoid the consequences. Compliant employees are very expensive for a company because they are not engaged with the goals or vision of the organization. They take up space and add little value beyond what the fear-mongering boss can force out of them. 

Compliant employees use their job description as a shield to deflect requests to do anything that might appear to be extra work. 

It is unlikely that any company still offers “Fear School” to their new managers. Many new managers however operate as if they passed the class with flying colors. They settle for the compliance of their people rather than working to earn their commitment. 

Authentic Leaders work daily to earn the commitment of their people. While compliant people are working to get out of work, committed employees are working to constantly improve both their organizations and themselves. They add value anyway they can. 

Some people will tell you that there is no difference between managing people and leading people. They say it’s all semantics. Those people would be mistaken. They would also be the managers most likely to settle for compliance. 

If you want to determine if someone is trying to manage people or if they are an Authentic Leader it’s actually pretty easy. Just look at the people they are responsible for leading. If the people are committed they are being led. If they are sleep walking through their day they are being managed. 

Here’s the sad part of all that. Every employee wants to be engaged. Every person wants to make a difference. Every person wants to enjoy their work. Every person can be an engaged and contributing employee. Every person wants effective and Authentic Leadership. 

Not every person in a leadership position wants to help their people have those things. They are “lazy leaders” who settle for compliance when they could have so much more. 

That’s a shame on many levels but especially for the people who lack the leadership they need.

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