The Dangers of a Fear-Driven Organization


The leadership tool in business that can often be overcome by enough information, research, and independent thinking. Striving businesses and leaders in all industries value the positive aspects of ‘fear’ in the sense of driving rational thinking, common sense, and productivity when approached honestly. However, the spirit of enterprise and entrepreneurship may not be so easy for many organizations. Today’s unethical organizations have succumbed to a fear-driven mentality that may be perceived as publicly successful, even striving for success; however, the internal barrage of lost strength is often the organization’s biggest failure.

And perhaps the largest source of a real fear?

The innovative steps undertaken by thousands across the world to keep up with changing markets, globalization, and increased competition have created a need for strong leadership, clear visions, and mission statements that encourage and develop the company and its employees. Peter Drucker broke ground with his discipline of innovation: to focus on the mission, define significant results, and do rigorous assessment. This follows the Total Quality Management principles of the early 90’s, and continues full force for many successful companies across America today.

Still, the fine line between defining the mission, emphasizing company culture, and creating and developing leaders, gradually disintegrates when an organization chooses a poisonous fuel to gear its machines: Fear.

A fear-driven organization is anything but an arena for leadership catering to growth; it is a mentality that focuses on the bottom line from only the top ranks. And if the top ranks are insufficient, the organization is quickly at a loss. Fear becomes failure and insecurity becomes paramount; many top-level executives refuse to see that this direct impact and connection even exists. The top-down power distribution and organizational chart have been debated for years in business schools and business professionals; the freshest approach for the successful growing organization has instead created a bottom-up approach, with power distributed within the evolving and changing organization. Instead of authoritarian ‘release’ of power from the CEO or top management, it filters through and around with the help of developmental leadership strategy, power distribution that focuses on long-term goals, and a method of consistent feedback and progress. How is this done? Through open communication, educational opportunity, planning for mistakes in the face of challenge, and consistent follow-through on projects and planning strategy. Without it, large organizations cannot expect to move ahead with the simplest idea, project, or embrace the ever-changing markets. Communication is key; open, and even frank declaration of objectives, results, and feedback create an environment that not only increases confidence, but perpetuates growth.

Selecting the ‘right’ people is every organization’s goal; however, it cannot be a simple task and can often result in a series of hazardous mistakes. Without a committed selection process, a company is opening the door for errors of a mass-scale; training cannot be complete, a steady level of talent is no longer possible, and the overall organizational culture and climate soon becomes that of a revolving door company. Standards are greatly compromised at this stage, and reinforcing the process creates the spiraling downward slide into failure.

Some companies were not meant to be saved; those spiraling into the stages of chaos and failure can serve as an example to others, a perfect example of what ‘not’ to do. The price paid is high; much higher than any fear that top management may have attempted to forego by implementing such self-defeating strategies in the first place. But it still exists. Perhaps you know of such a company, maybe you have worked for one, or you are currently part of an organization that exhibits the traits of a sinking ship. Whatever the case may be, instability and fear-driven organizations go hand in hand. The outcome of over-controlled power in the top ranks no longer works for today’s successful business. Employee-related fear created from indirect insults, abuse, and management mis-management are all ingredients for a poor climate. Mistrust, suspicious behavior, and insecurities abound in this version of a ‘business’, and fear and failure are guaranteed.

Only until a company can face its weaknesses, it cannot even begin to create a single rung for itself on the ladder of success. Facing a weakness is difficult on both a personal, and career level; it’s an ‘uncomfortable’ subject, but nevertheless a fact that even the strongest leader must face, and be willing to understand. Without it, the mentality leads to a serious level of denial and excessive overcompensation; both resulting in ineffective and short-term ‘results.’ Seek out the strengths of a company, and you will find that those who faced and worked on their weaknesses found the ability to move forward. Progress and achievement go hand in hand, and success is simply a repetition of this equation, obstacle, after obstacle, challenge after challenge.

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