Fear is a motivator that works, that is why it is so often used - knowingly and unknowingly. Fear-based leadership is a style that derives from one's need for control.
This flavor of control is often justified as a means to protect people. This was the driving force behind Ra's al Ghul's
In the Dark Knight Rises, the new villain Bane shares in Ra's vision for the destruction of Gotham City and is driven to fulfill his original mission. [Caution: Spoiler Alert!]
Bane displayed very effective fear-based leadership tactics. He was intimidating, terrifying, articulate, and manipulative. We also learn he was well connected with Miranda Tate.
For most of the film, the audience is lead to believe Bane is the sole leader in the takeover of Gotham City. However, after Miranda Tate reveals herself as Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Ra's al Ghul, we understand that only through their twisted alliance could Bane actually accomplish taking control of Gotham City. Talia was the true mastermind.
Nevertheless, Bane's leadship skills should not be discounted. In the film he is referred to as just a "Mercenary," a hired gun. But what did he bring to the table? Ah yes, human resources.
Bane organized and lead a sizeable battalion. He did so by manipulating them. He sought out the desperate, strung them along, giving them a false sense of power and security. He used this battalion to strategically plant bombs throughout Gotham and with Talia's backing, seized control of Wayne Enterprises. He eventually went on to release all the inmates in Gotham's prison - arming and organizing them to combat the Gotham City Police Department. He inspired the prisoners by manipulating them. He used Commissioner Gordon's statements, the truth behind the real Harvey Dent, to unite them against a common enemy who brought them to justice.
Bane understood how to harness the power of vengeance and create order out of chaos. There are really two aspects to his leadership style:
In business, if a leader's attention turns from "How can I do the right thing for employees and customers?" to "How can I keep my job, status, and control?" then fear is this leader's weapon of choice.
If you can answer YES to a majority of these questions, then fear-based leadership is rife in your organization:
An organization that hires intelligent people, setting them loose to solve real-world will be a successful and innovative leader in its industry. Fear-ridden employees only try to maintain the status quo, they don't discover innovative solutions. This is easy to see. Yet, fear-based leadership is difficult to break because cogs don't speak up, they stay quiet and keep their heads down - while this is convenient, it's not sustainable.
The truth about fear-based leadership is that it stems from a lack of self confidence. In addition, a fear-based manager, like Bane, has profound anxiety about making a wrong decision and is afraid of what others will think if he makes a poor decision. Did you see how scared he was when Batman returned from the prison in Asia? Yeah, he screwed up! Big time! He underestimated his competition because he was enjoying the glory of his thousands for scared, obedient minions.
Fear-based leadership really isn't leadership at all. It doesn't move an organization over obstacles and into a sustainable position for the future. It's actually the opposite of leadership because with it there is no vision, innovation is stifled, and obsoleteness emerges.
To be an effective leader, you have to earn everyone’s respect every single day. You do this by serving, supporting, and making sacrifices for your teammates. You must position yourself on higher ground in order to lift others up. Leadership is stepping up, taking action, and inspiring others to work alongside you.
Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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