A student asked me a very thought provoking question yesterday. Which way do you think is the best way to lead by fear or by love? Is it more important that your followers fear you or that they love you? Will the fear of punishment cause people to obey more effectively or would their love for their leader have a greater effect on their behavior?
My answer was love. Fear can cause people to behave superficially, they do it because they don’t want to be hurt. One who does something for love gives their entire being to that leader and will give their life if necessary. This of course is my opinion. I draw this opinion from experience. When I started teaching three years ago I was advised that I should let the students know who was in charge by putting fear into them, fear of my authority. I floundered through this method of becoming the enforcer by constantly punishing my students. After four months of pretending to be someone I was not, I took the advice of someone else who said, relax and just be yourself. It was then that I began to show my love for my students. I still gave punishments when absolutely necessary but not like I did at the beginning.
This school year I started with brand new students who did not know me. I showed them respect, love, kindness, and understanding. They follow my directions and behave very well because they love me. It is a mutual respect. Once in a great while I have to threaten them with a punishment but it is rare.
If you follow a leader’s direction out of fear continuously how can you love that person? You will probably learn to hate that person. If at some point in time harm could come to that person why would you prevent it? If you follow a leader you love and someone was to hurt that person you would lay down your life for him/her. The fear of punishment from someone you love is fear of disappointment which runs much deeper than fear of pain.
So, my answer is love. What is your answer and why?