Tom: Hey Evan. It’s so exciting. Our publisher just sent the final proof of our book to the printer.
Evan: I know. Soon our message will be shared with a lot of people. Some will gravitate to it and others won’t believe that this approach can work in a business setting. It occurred to me that what we didn’t discuss in the book is, if Love isn’t the foundation from which you lead than what is? What are you finding works better?
Tom: That’s a great question Evan. I know we have talked about people who still lead through intimidation.
Evan: We were working with a senior leadership team. We were talking about leadership philosophy. One of the leaders quoted Machiavelli. He read the piece from The Prince where he states that only leading by fear will leaders be truly effective: “This gives rise to an argument: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the opposite. The answer is that one would like to be both, but since it is difficult to combine the two it is much safer to be feared than loved…”
Tom: For real?
Evan: At first I thought he was kidding too, but he was not. The stark reality is that there are still leaders who consciously or unconsciously believe that only through fear can they get the best out of people. It may not always look like yelling and other obvious forms of fear, but in subtler ways they use fear to motivate people. They think that the only way to get to obtain outcomes is through a strong hand.
Tom: That reminds me of our recent conversation with UPenn’s head basketball coach Steve Donahue. It’s crazy how aligned his coaching philosophy is with Pheel the Love!
Evan: Yes, it was pretty amazing the story he shared about that pivotal moment in his coaching career when in a practice he was trying to “drive blood from a stone”, to get more out of his team, when three of his players were injured – two in a mild way and one who became paralyzed from the neck down. He spent the next week in a hospital beside his traumatically injured player’s bedside and his team went on to win without him. (Read more of Steve Donahue’s story HERE.)
Tom: It seems he came out of that whole experience a changed man. “I went from, ‘You have to do it my way’ to ‘We’re in this together’. I now see my job as someone who motivates and inspires. I’m also committed to never lowering the bar.”
Evan: It’s pretty significant how he shifted to a foundation of motivation and encouragement, as evidenced in his quote. Steve now understands that you can still be “loving” without sacrificing your commitment to achieving results.
Tom: Yeah, and when he had a year off from coaching he spent his time traveling around learning from other coaches. What he noticed was that when coaches yelled and cursed at their team, he saw how their message was totally lost on the players — they couldn’t hear it. So he’s taken on a commitment to not curse at his players. Some might say that not cursing is being soft, but his commitment to winning and “never lowering the bar” has not waivered.
Evan: The same is true in business. You can still have a standard of excellence but you don’t have to be “hard” to achieve it. While it’s a strategy that can produce some short-term success, it’s not sustainable – especially in this highly competitive economic environment that requires collaboration to stay ahead. There’s a great Forbes article that goes into the “devastating consequences” on long-term business success.
Tom: I’ve never thought of trying to get the best out of people by scaring them.
Evan: That’s you Tom. Your nature is to come from love. It’s not so easy for the rest of us. When we feel fearful, it’s easy to get tight, angry and bark-out orders. It takes a good amount of self-awareness to see ourselves and to consciously change our behavior. Steve Donahue is a great example of a leader who did just that.