“Men are less worried about harming somebody who makes himself loved than someone who makes himself feared, for love is held by a chain of obligation which, since men are bad, is broken at every opportunity for personal gain. Fear, on the other hand, is maintained by a dread of punishment which will never desert you.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
Machiavelli’s advice to make oneself feared is certainly a maxim that is well followed by Tyrants all over the world, in all sizes and sorts of organizations. And it has to be admitted that, for a time, such a method of rule will serve to get a leader in power and keep that power.
Almost every democratic process can be influenced (perverted) by a rule of fear combined with sufficient corruption. So Machiavelli’s advice may seem to be correct to those who have a natural sadistic trait in their nature and are seeking a justification to fulfill those desires.
However rule by fear requires considerable sustained use of resources (people reporting on others and other people collating those reports) that must be diverted from other purposes that would otherwise advance the organization or state. It also requires well demonstrated abuses of power under inhumane circumstances in order to teach the majority the price of disobedience or disloyal behavior.
In an organization the abuses of power are usually expressed by forms of public humiliation, bullying, keeping of secret records of misdeeds, rejections of promotion, undesirable postings, late or non payment of overtime, non approval of staff development and unwarranted disciplinary procedures.
Rule by fear has other undesirable consequences for advancing an organization or state, and that is the majority become fearful of making any kind of change, innovation or constructive suggestion. The people being ruled do not seek the company of the leader unless they enjoy inflicting suffering in some way.
The leader ruling by fear therefore gets surrounded by like minded followers and more and more isolated from the desires of their organization or State’s stakeholders.
This isolation combined with the hatred that grows within human beings who are prevented from expressing their free will and intelligence, leads to the inevitable violent fall of all those who lead by fear.
When the feared regime falls, and they always fall, the leader is discredited and faces the revenge of all those whom they managed or led.
In contrast a respected leader is held in high esteem after they leave office. They leave with dignity and respect because they ruled by reason and had the foreknowledge that all periods of leadership end. So they did not cling to power beyond its natural period. As a consequence the great leader is often only really appreciated after they have left office. This is one of the secrets of a really great leader.