Should Managers be Feared or Loved?

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Monster Managers vs. Moses Managers…

“It is better to be feared than loved…” — Machiavelli

But does this age-old advice ring true in the contemporary work world regarding business management, leadership, productivity and equality?

All employees want great managers, yet few appear to enjoy that luxury. But what really makes a great manager?

Some say it’s more effective to use fear tactics to get work results. Others argue that a positive can-do management style is best for business and productivity. Who’s right?

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Monster Managers

For example, have you ever had a manager who would make a great Army drill sergeant or head of a crime family? You know, the type of manager that displays some of the following tendencies:

  • Micromanages your work assignments and constantly watches the clock.
  • Towers over your shoulder barking orders as you cower and sweat it out.
  • Gets angry often and lets staff know it. They yell, curse and finger point. Some even hurl phones against the wall.
  • Rigidly adheres to the organization’s byzantine bureaucratic culture, even at the cost of lost productivity.
  • Plays favorites with staff, engaging in nepotism or discrimination.
  • Is an arrogant “back stabber” and two-faced person who talks about you to coworkers behind your back.
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These are managers who rule by the sword and wear authority on their sleeves. They can make you cringe or hide under the desk when they approach you at work.

The result: you carry out your work with a sense of fear, loathing or even paranoia. You feel like you can’t make any mistakes or do anything wrong — lest the monster manager eats you alive. You have nightmares about your manager and dread going into the office.

Yes, these monster managers may get results because they are feared. However, ask yourself this:

  • Do monster managers get the best results possible, in the most effective and efficient way for business?
  • Do monster managers get the most productivity out of staff?
  • Is being a monster manager a good or bad management and leadership approach?

Moses Managers

Unlike a monster manager, a Moses manager exudes leadership and respect. He knows how to motivate you and the team, foster productivity and promote equality by creating a positive work culture for all employees.

The Moses manager can also work miracles in crisis work situations.

The Moses manager embodies some of these characteristics:

  • Promotes leadership by being positive, energetic and upbeat.
  • Praises staff often and points out what worked well.
  • Demonstrates professionalism in appearance and mannerisms.
  • Shows appreciation and makes you and your coworkers feel a sense of equality, camaraderie and teamwork.
  • Displays modesty and gives credit to others without dwelling on mistakes.
  • Recognizes and rewards staff for excellent work in front of coworkers.
  • Leverages workplace flexibility options by allowing staff to work remotely (telework/telecommute), as appropriate, to enhance work/life balance.
  • Increases employee productivity, accountability and organizational loyalty with words and deeds.

The Moses manager is loved at work, not loathed. You love working for him or her because you are treated with dignity, respect and professionalism. You might even love the manager like a family member in rare cases.

Moses managers get results because employees are engaged, have high-morale, strong company loyalty and go the extra mile when needed.

Employees view the Moses manager as a true leader whom they admire, respect and want to work hard for without prodding. Employees truly trust this type of manager because they make the workplace a better place.

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Final Thoughts

Moses managers motivate and inspire you to do your best work by maximizing employee engagement and building trust.

If forced to choose one of the two management approaches, I would opt for the Moses manager every time.

This is mainly because the Moses manager is more likely to achieve exemplary bottom line results through increased employee productivity and high staff morale — both of which are essential elements of a healthy work environment.

But that’s just my take.

Perhaps there is no right or wrong answer, better or worse approach, or blanket solution to perfecting management and leadership. It may all depend on the specific individual in charge and the specific circumstances of any given work situation, as well as how you react to it.

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Good and bad management may also depend on employee perceptions of how coworkers are treated.

I’m reminded of the following contrarian saying regarding some monster managers: “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”

Is a balanced mix of traits exemplified by both the Moses manager and monster manager the most effective style?

Ponder these questions:

  1. Do you prefer a Moses manager, monster manager or a combination?
  2. If you have (or had) a monster manager, how did you handle it?
  3. Do you think there are any drawbacks or unintended consequences to having a Moses manager who is revered by all?
  4. Is it even possible for any manager, at any level, to strike the perfect balance of positive and negative traits — or the perception thereof?

What do YOU think and why?


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David is a strategic communications consultant, freelance writer and former federal government spokesman based in the Washington, DC-area. His work experience includes the White House, Congress, OMB and EEOC. A native New Yorker, David was a journalist prior to his career of public service. You can also find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

NOTE: All views and opinions are those of the author only and not official statements or endorsements of any public sector employer, private sector employer, organization or political entity.

Founder of Grinberg Global PR: optimizing strategic comms to effectuate social justice | former spokesman for U.S. EEOC | DC-based, NY-bred.

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