Human Resources

Leadership Styles Can Make or Break a Compliance Program

Hey Compliance Warriors!

A big part of a solid compliance program is a solid leadership approach. We are beginning a new year and it’s time to review our leadership goals for 2019. Let’s look at what it takes to become a leader that people respect and consider to be “likable”. Not a pushover. But, a leader who inspires confidence and motivates employees to want to improve and achieve personal and company goals – Compliance Goals! Read on…

While many who enter into management and leadership roles want to be genuinely liked by the workers they supervise, seeking popularity for its own sake can be a dead-end path. Many have tried to lead while seeking popularity only to find that, indeed, they are loved but not respected. Becoming a more likable boss does not mean you have to sacrifice respect. However, being a likable boss and a respected boss does mean you have to learn to be more effective. This book helps you take the first steps on what will be a continuous journey towards becoming a more effective boss, the side effects of which are both likability and respect.

Is it Better to be Loved or Feared?

This famous question comes down to us from Niccolo Machiavelli, a political theorist who lived in Italy during the Renaissance. He contended that a leader who is feared is preferable to a leader who is loved. However, he also lived during a time of great political instability where city governments changed in a flash, usually violently, and usually involving executions of the previous leadership. Since we no longer live in an age where stepping down from a leadership position or being removed would involve the loss of one’s head, do we really need to adopt the route that proved so disastrous for such ruthless dictators as Saddam Hussein and Augusto Pinochet?

The Case for Fear

An authoritarian approach to leadership is not all bad. Some people in leadership positions might still maintain that leaders who approach their employees with a sense of antagonism have fewer instances where employees take advantage of them. They can use “tough love” to “whip employees into shape.” Where supervisors who aim for popularity fail in setting boundaries for their employees, authoritarian leaders make those boundaries clear through well-defined consequences for crossing them. This approach to leadership seldom suffers from employees taking liberties or taking advantage of a perceived weakness of the supervisor.

The Case for Love

Well, that’s a case closed then, right? Make sure that you scare your employees, and they will treat you with respect and dare not cross you. This has been a great training session. Thank you for participating. Go get ’em!

If it were only so easy. While an authoritarian approach to leadership might give you the appearance of being respected, it’s not so likely that this respect would be genuine. Real respect must be earned and involves respecting others. If you genuinely care about your employees, you may not have to work so hard getting them to do what needs to be done, uncovering instances where they were too afraid to approach you, or squashing conflicts with your employees that might tend to flare up when you approach your leadership role from an authoritarian standpoint. Perhaps being loved is not such a useless approach to effective leadership.

The Case Against Either

The problem in leadership isn’t being more loved nor is it being feared more. Both have their upsides, but each also has its downside. Beloved leaders might be popular, but they might also be easily manipulated and put into unnecessary situations where it feels as if the inmates are running the asylum. Conversely, those who use fear as a leadership tactic frequently have to deal with such issues as insubordination or dishonesty from their employees. In addition, a work environment that is marked by fear turns into a poisonous place to work. Authoritarian leaders often experience higher rates of turnover from their employees. This means time that might otherwise be productively spent is now redirected towards training new employees. Any efficiency such a leader hoped to gain by cracking the whip has been lost when employees won’t stay for any length of time. There must be a middle way.

The Middle Ground

Since both leadership styles have both upsides and downsides, perhaps the best approach is to be a little bit of both. Like an authoritative leader, you want to have clear boundaries with clear consequences, but you do not want to create a fearful and poisonous work environment where everyone is trying to stab each other in the back and no one will tell you the truth, but whatever you want to hear.

Jack was recently promoted to the manager position at his bookstore. Because he suddenly found that he had new responsibilities, he became extremely invested in his new position. Similarly, Katy also had been recently promoted. While Jack tried to crack the whip and boss his employees around, Katy tried to understand what motivated her employees and sought to align their motivations with what she needed from them. Soon, Jack found all of his employees either quitting on him or they no longer were friendly with him. His employees would do their work, but often it was the bare minimum. The work environment when he was in charge became quiet, serious, and tense. When Katy was in charge, the effect was like a ray of sunshine lighting up a dark room. Employees laughed and joked with her and with each other, but they also worked extremely hard.

A middle ground approach would mean that you do value your employees as people. You are genuinely interested in their lives. You understand that respect is a two-way street and must be earned. Yet, you impose clear boundaries. While you and your employees may be equal in both a personal and possibly even a professional sense, you have a different job than your employees. You face a different set of pressures. The key to understanding whether it is better to be loved or feared is considering the big picture and the long term, and in each situation, which approach would be more effective in the long run for that situation.

Some managers find themselves in a tough spot when it comes to inspiring workers to care about the big picture of compliance. But, when employees respect their leaders, compliance will be just another part of the job they are happy to perform.

Until Next Time, Be Audit-Secure!

Lisa Smith


Lisa Smith is CEO of Andere Corporation and Chief Content Developer at HelpDeskSuites.com. Follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, listen to her Small Business Spoonfuls Podcast, and find more in her HR Like a Boss Facebook group.

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