Creative Leadership

Why Leadership By Threat Isn’t Leadership

The New Testament book of Mark is a powerful example of who responded to the message of Jesus and who didn’t. Chapter 12 is an especially good example. The people (Mark describes them as “throngs”) loved his message, but those who resisted where those in authority, because they saw his message as a threat. Sadly, too many leaders today attempt to use threats as a leadership technique. I see that in many churches, nonprofits, and businesses today. Many leaders don’t inspire their team, so they threaten them, thinking it’s a good motivator.

You know what I’m talking about. Leaders or managers who say things like “If you can’t do this, there’s plenty of other people I can call.” Or “This is your last chance, you better not screw it up.” Or tinge every request with a dramatic, ominous – and overblown – ultimatum.

Supposed “leaders” who use threats against their team are people who have run out of ideas. They have no personal credibility, and although they may have a title, they have little earned authority. Stop and reflect on how you communicate with your team. If you ever feel a threat is needed, know at that moment you’ve already lost their respect.

There are no hopeless situations, only leaders who have run out of ideas. Threats – either real or implied telegraph the message to your team that your authority isn’t enough, and your talent isn’t enough.

When it comes to your employees, team members, or vendors, there’s no room in leadership for threats.

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  1. I have been “under” several of those kinds of leaders and it never turns out well. At least for me it didn’t. 🙂 My personality is not to be this kind of leader, but I sure hope if I ever do that one of my other staff will say, “Who died and left you boss?”

  2. Threatening those you lead is old school management. It’s also the true colors of an insecure leader who feels the need to pound their chest. I’ve been under a few of those kind of leaders. Repeatedly done, it’s a stab at your self-esteem (if you allow it), and takes the morale of the organization down a couple of notches. To survive such a culture you have to KNOW you are not what they would have you to believe you are… while you are looking for another job.

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