Should leaders be loved or feared?

December 29, 2014, 6:00 PM UTC
Courtesy of Urban Compass

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “As a leader, is it better to be feared or loved?” is written by Robert Reffkin, co-founder and CEO of Urban Compass.

Today’s forward-thinking, technology-based companies are in a war for talent, with the top employees having their pick of employment opportunities. The primary driver of a company’s success is the caliber of its people. And so as a leader, your most important responsibility is to recruit, develop and retain the best employees and agents. To achieve this, companies need to continually inspire and motivate their employees to ensure sustained success. Instilling fear in employees is an antiquated managerial approach, however, the problem with “fear” is that it isn’t a good motivator.

Here are a few tips to attract the best talent and keep them motivated:

Create outsized opportunities for people to be great. In the business world, to become a “loved” leader, you must help employees realize their full professional potential by challenging their perceived limits and surrounding them with outstanding colleagues. However, to create a work environment that draws exceptional people, you need to earn the right to work with them. The best way to do this is through creating a challenging work environment for all employees, as well as providing the support and resources they need to succeed.

Connect with employees on a personal level. An executive’s effort to sincerely get to know colleagues on a personal level is integral to building a culture in which each person is heavily invested. One authentic way to connect with employees it to share your passions with them. I started a running club that meets weekly and I host dinners with my wife for our employees and agents on Friday nights. Activities outside the office foster a connection that cannot be created in a conference room.

Have an accessible leadership team. As the employee base of a company grows, management’s singular ability to provide individual consultation to everyone is significantly handicapped. However, as a leader of the company, it is crucial to institute an open door policy for oneself and the entire leadership team and to ensure that each employee has regular one-on-one’s with their manager.

At Urban Compass, our success is dependent on a culture of mutual respect, collaboration and intellectual curiosity, which can only be sustained when people love what they do. While we never hesitate to challenge our employees and nudge them out of their comfort zones, in my opinion doing so through fear is not nearly as productive.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: As a leader, is it better to be feared or loved?

As a leader, is it better to be feared or loved? by Danae Ringelmann, founder and Chief Development Officer at Indiegogo.


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