What we can learn from the military
Now we have considered how people can often reduce life down into fear and love, to try and apprehend it and make it more manageable, and that we tend to live according to our values, we can use these to look at leadership. Fear is not a value, it is not something that we need to think about, or attempt to show in our lives, it’s part of our evolutionary biology, it’s a survival mechanism built into us. When we are fearful, we are not at our best, we are scared, in a heightened state, often anxious and possibly panicked. People who live in a consistent state of fear can be easily manipulated, intimidated and controlled, because they are so worn down by exposure to the things they are scared of.
Some people I have met think that leading through fear can be useful. They often mix it in with concepts such as discipline and routine and respect. Discipline and routine and respect are all excellent things, but they do not need to be modelled on fear. The marines are know for their infamous drill sergeants, shouting at recruits, and of their incredibly tough training camps. And yet, marine servants when interviewed will tell you that the point of this is not to make the recruits scared of their leaders. It is to get the people to work together, to put themselves to one side and be a team- a place where no person is left behind and the unit can always achieve more together.
My experiences in life with friends and colleagues who are military or ex military has taught me the same. The men and women talk of respect and camaraderie with their team mates. They talk of the discipline of what they had to do, and of high standards. The fear was always there, but it was a natural state that came with combat and seeing death up close. There’s no need to motivate with fear- it is already there. I’ve never heard them talking of fear of their leaders, only love for their team mates.
Fear is such a terrible tool for leaders to use to build their communities, teams and systems: you will never get the best out of people. They will always be looking over their shoulder, they will not show respect or admiration, only fear. There will not be laughter and creativity, only fear, people will not breathe deeply and appreciate where they are with you, there will want to get away from you and what you have created as soon as possible.
In the military my friends told me that you can respect the rank of an officer, or you can respect them as a person. Those that are respected because of their ranks will get efforts from their people. But those who are respected because of who they are often get 100% from their team.
And why is that? It’s because the team can sense the passion, the integrity, the love the leader has for their people, the organisation, their country, or for their family, who they are working to provide for. They are leading from something deeper, a motive that is much bigger than themselves and the fear for their own survival.
One of the strongest of these motives, which can be applied to all contexts, is love.
So how do you lead from love?
What does that look like?
In Part 2, we will be exploring how you can begin to lead from a place of love.