Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Love versus Fear

Positive - or love-based - motivation is more powerful and enduring than negative - or fear-based - motivation, according to Daft (2007, citing Holden, 2007).

New Zealanders are far more comfortable in using the terms 'positive' and 'negative' over 'love' and 'fear'; which says something interesting about our culture of arm's length independence and lack of desire to get too emotional about things at work.

Positive motivation is that where we feel that the organisation values our work, and that the organisation trusts us to do our work well.

Positive motivation, which is created through the development of a positively led environment, has five components, which meet follower psychological contract needs, and are (Daft, 2007):
  1. Listen and empathise with we followers
  2. Don't judge what we say, even if you don't agree.
  3. Accept we followers for what we can contribute.
  4. Appreciate that we followers generally don't set out to do a bad job. 
  5. Be honest, while being developmental (solution-focused), in feedback.
Positive leadership and followership works in a rational way. Relationships between the parties are based on respect and trust, and leverage from the 4Is of transformational leadership: individualised consideration; intellectual stimulation; inspirational motivation; and idealised influence (Lowe, Kroeck & Sivasubramaniam 1996). Positive motivation allows us all to get more with less: it is synergistic.

Negative motivation is where we say nothing - or agree - based on follower fear of losing our job if we speak up. In New Zealand, the Pike River Mine disaster was our most recent, tragic and significant loss of life example of an organisation which created and sustained negative motivation.

In a negative culture, followers worry about speaking out, taking risks, challenging the status quo, or doing anything that may get us noticed - and therefore 'blamed'. We keep quiet, and so we are unable to do our best. We don't trust the leaders in the organisation with our welfare, so the leaders don't trust us, and thus the negative culture is perpetuated (Daft, 2007).

I find it amazing that negative cultured organisations still continue to operate. But they do, and there are many of them. However, the thing to remember is that positive culture and motivation will pay organisations a substantial dividend over time.

Work on it. It's worth it.


  • Daft, Richard L. (2007). The Leadership Experience (4th Edition). USA: Thomson South-Western.
  • Holden, Daniel (2007). Team Development: A search for elegance. Industrial Management, September-October 2007 (pp. 20-25).
  •  Lowe, K. B., Kroeck, K. G., & Sivasubramaniam, N. (1996). Effectiveness correlates of transformational leadership: A meta-analytic review of the MLQ literature. Leadership Quarterly, issue 7 (pp. 385-425).

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