Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is it better to be loved or feared?

I'm still reflecting on Chris Lowney this week, who points out the the chasm of opinion that separates Machiavelli (famous for his book The Prince) and Loyola (founder of the Jesuits). The question: "Is it better to be feared or loved?" Machiavelli believes that people are not to be trusted, so it is better to be feared. At the other end of the spectrum, Loyola wants to create a society based on "greater love than fear." So who is right?

Admittedly this is a false dichotomy. Both are right to a point. Yes, people are fickle. Yes, they will sometimes dissapoint you. However, my recent readings (outside of Lowney) suggest that organizations that utilize positive relationship skills are successful because (among other reasons) positive relationships do have power. Anecdotally, I've used both forms of management. Relying on fear was a depressing experience for me, and it certainly wasn't much fun for those I managed.

School teachers across the nation are currently struggling with what some diagnose as an epidemic of cheating. So how should we respond? Do we punish those who are caught cheating? Certainly. But consequences alone do not change culture (as pointed out by Yukl's discussion of coercive power in Leadership in Organizations). I suggest we not only have consequences for those guilty of cheating, but that those consequences include a restitutional element that is designed to repair the damaged relationships cheating can cause (if nothing else, a level of trust is broken). Additionally, I suggest we celebrate those students who choose not to cheat, and that we do all of this in the hopes of creating learning institutions that value love more than fear.

IDEA LEADER: Which does your leadership style utilize more - love or fear?

No comments: