Fear is a Common Motivational Tool, But Does It Work?

People are motivated in different ways.  A surprising, recent survey conducted by Love Leadership and First & First Consulting found that fear is the primary motivator for a third of corporate leaders.  The problem is that organizations focused on fear are less efficient and psychologically unsafe work environments. This fear-driven leadership costs nearly $36 billion annually in lost productivity, with fear-based leaders losing an estimated 10 hours a week, equating to about $29,000 per leader per year. The survey included responses from over 2,000 managers aged 24 to 54 in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, working at companies with 500 or more employees.

Leaders who use fear as a motivator may not be consciously aware of their approach, but the survey identified fear-based sentiments such as avoidance, aggression, suspicion, and blame. These leaders often experience anxiety, micromanagement, imposter syndrome, anger, resistance to feedback, hesitancy to speak up, and complacency. While fear can serve as a short-term motivator, it is not sustainable in the long run. The survey found that nearly 40% of fear-based leaders believe stress can be positively harnessed in workplaces, highlighting a misconception about the impact of fear on leadership.

The report emphasizes the importance of leaders motivating with love, defined as trust, compassion, vulnerability, respect, and other sentiments that create psychologically safe environments. Leaders who focus on making subordinates feel safe, rather than capitalizing on fear, are likely to foster better employee well-being and overall productivity. The fear driving leaders often stems from the fear of looking bad or failing, and experts suggest that the best leaders adopt a mindset of embracing challenges, being willing to fail, and leading by sharing power and energy with others.

TRACOM Teaches Confidence

Confidence is important at the individual level and the organizational level. As a leader, if you’re not confident in your organization, then how will your employees be confident in you? Working for you? They won’t. TRACOM’s Behavioral EQ Model teaches self-confidence which can be applied in the workplace and everyday life.

“People with high self-confidence tend to challenge themselves to develop new abilities and take on new responsibilities. These efforts can lead to additional successes, recognition and opportunities which further builds self-confidence.” – Casey Mulqueen, PhD, Director of Learning and Development at TRACOM Group

TRACOM’s Behavioral EQ for Emotional Intelligence program recognizes that a good first step in increasing self-confidence is to understand the specific areas where you lack it. Take time and keep a list that identifies specific situations or areas where you lack self-confidence, as well as your perceived reasons for your lack of confidence. For the most pressing situation that challenges your confidence, develop a specific behavioral strategy to increase your confidence. Practice this new behavior as frequently as possible, every day if you can. Take a positive step each day to strengthen a relationship, or share your ideas through email or another format that causes less anxiety. In this way, you are increasing confidence through identifying a specific target and practicing your abilities in that area.