Is it Better for Your Career to Be Feared or Respected?

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Is it better to feared or respected? Well, you will be surprised to find out how much opinions vary. Despite the popular belief that being respected is more important than being liked – and as such not feared by other people – Machiavelli, famous Renaissance political theorist, says otherwise. In his book The Prince, Machiavelli supports that “it is better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both”.  

The way Machiavelli sees it is that while having both is the ideal, being feared is better because fear is stronger than being liked or loved. As he puts it: “It would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved.”

Machiavelli’s view on leadership is thought-provoking because it can have you wondering what it is the best approach to gaining other people’s acceptance and respect. But just as people are different, so is the way they choose to lead.

The truth is that there are many different leadership styles you can experiment with. Different approaches might work better than others depending on the people you work with. So, in order to find out which is the best method of leadership, you need to think about the effect this each one has on other people or better yet, your employees.

Fear vs respect


For example, when people fear you, they are more likely to do what you tell them to do, but just because that’s enough to get them a paycheck. This way they are more likely to perform how you want them to do so that they can keep their jobs. What this means is that they won’t be giving out their 100 percent or take initiative on doing anything else apart from their job.

On the other hand, when you demand respect from your employees, they are more likely to be honest with you and even disagree with you. In fact, they might not even like you as a person but think of you as a good leader and still perform for you. But since respect can only be earned, it doesn’t come with any job title, power or seniority, you have to be willing to win over your workers and amaze them with your never-ending enthusiasm for work.

Apart from showing that you are passionate in your wok, there are some other ways that can help you gain other peoples’ respect:

  • Be trustworthy: stick to your decisions, be humble and admit mistakes whenever you have to.
  • Be visionary: see the potential in your employees and give them a purpose to hold on to.
  • Be flexible: don’t call all the shots, let your workers voice their opinion on important matters.
  • Be empathetic: show that you care for them even though sometimes you may appear tough so that work gets done.

The best choice


Deciding on an approach pretty much depends on what you want to get out of your employees. Do you want them to keep to themselves and never express their opinion? Do you want them to feel unhappy in their roles and not giving out their best performance? Or do you prefer that they explore their creativity and individuality in the job and as such being more productive? This decision is up to you.

So would you choose to be feared or respected? Some people may ask, why can you have both?

In a way, fear brings respect. Being feared not only gets things done but sometimes it’s just the only way you can have people do what you say and asserting your authority. Earning the employees’ respect through fear can be useful especially when you are new to your rule and you want to establish some ground rules. This should help you test your authority and the influence you have on these people. However, fear should never be the basis of your management style but only used when positive motivation fails to produce results.

At the end of the day, you have to think about what leadership style works best for you. If you prefer to be feared you have to be able to anticipate the effects of your decision so that you can effectively manage employees with lack of drive and motivation. When this happens you need to balance out fear while encouraging feelings of likeness and respect.

Other’s peoples’ behaviour and performance is a reflection of how they feel about you. So what it is going to be? Are you going to be a leader who is being feared or liked and respected in your career? Let me know in the comments section below…