Magazine Article | February 2, 2014

Leadership By Fear – Falling Off The Tiger

Source: Life Science Leader

By Bob Garner

Winston Churchill once said, “Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.” Though Churchill was speaking of dictators of countries, the same statement can be applied to leaders of companies who prefer to ride the tiger called leadership by fear.

While leading by fear or intimidation may work to increase short-term profits, in due course, employee morale sinks, key employees leave, and productivity and performance falter. The remaining employees will secretly begin to despise their leader, which will be transferred to their work and, ultimately, the customer. Eventually, this affects the bottom line, and the leader will be forced to dismount the tiger and face its wrath (i.e. the board, bad media reports, etc.).

Instead of leading by fear, wise executives understand the need to lead by admiration and respect. While not as ego-gratifying for some executives as the use of fear — generally, insecure people use fear as a control strategy — leading by admiration and respect fosters communication, creativity, and cohesiveness:

  • Communication — Ideas and opinions are asked for, listened too, and discussed.
  • Creativity — Employees are encouraged to utilize current skill base and cultivate new skills.
  • Cohesiveness — All departments unite to achieve small and large goals.

This three-prong strategy enhances employee self-worth, which delivers not only a heightened sense of interest to one’s job, but also improved customer service and an increased bottom line. Additionally, should the leader encourage employees to act on their ideas, as well as disagree with the leader without fear of retribution, then the leader earns the respect and admiration of all, both during and after their years of working together.

Churchill was known for treating his staff, as well as others who worked with him, with respect and loyalty. Wartime aide Lord Bridges wrote of Churchill, “I cannot recollect a single minister, serving officer, or civil servant who was removed from office because he stood up to Churchill and told Churchill that his policy or proposals were wrong.”

Instead of riding a tiger, Churchill knew that it was far better to walk freely amongst those with whom he worked — asking for ideas, encouraging others to use their talents, fostering teamwork, and treating people with respect and loyalty. Maybe that is why Churchill was — and still is — regarded as a great leader. People didn’t follow him because they were afraid of him; they did so because they respected him. He never had to worry about falling off the tiger.

Recognized as a funny motivational speaker who actually has something to say, Bob Garner speaks on enhancing performance and productivity, and appears at meetings and conferences of Fortune 1000 corporations worldwide. For more information, go to