About this Post

Driving cultural change in your organization by empowering your team and leading by example.

I thought I'd expand on some thoughts related to something I shared earlier this year around information flow and leadership balance.

Manny is adaptable and a leader. This combination enables him to effectively navigate his team and business partners through evolving business requirements.

Morgan Chatley, Sr. Manager, New Market Entry at Tesla
Sr. Manager, New Market Entry at Tesla

Do you lead by instilling fear or inspiring your coworkers?

Having come from a financially poor family, my siblings and I each did our part from a young age to contribute at home in whatever way we could. This included getting jobs as soon as we were able to, while also taking care of school business. I highlight this, as over the decades since having first, formally entered the workforce, I've experienced a variety of leadership styles from various bosses; the most common was leading by fear. Leaders who lead by fear are sometimes called tough types. I think that's a misnomer, since you can still be tough or challenging without being feared by your coworkers, which can lead to a lack of trust and psychological safety.

Leave fear at the door and embrace empowerment. Having this attitude means acknowledging that, as a leader, you:

  1. Do not know everything — I certainly don't!
  2. Cannot do everything (at the highest level), and
  3. Respect your coworkers by valuing their contributions and recognizing their potential, by extension,
  4. Are willing to learn from your coworkers

As I reflect on why I've experienced empowerment leadership style less than fear leadership style, I realize that there are many contributing factors, one of which is that people are creatures of habit. Work culture has, generally speaking, favored — valued — tough styles that instill fear. The lead-by-fear approach may get certain "business results", but it's not sustainable and it can often send another message to coworkers: I don't value you as a whole human being, which leads to a lack of trust and psychological safety, and, ultimately, but not limited to, a lack of engagement.

In other words, the lead-by-fear approach is a short-term solution that can lead to long-term problems.

In my current leadership role, I do everything I can to create the kind of workplace environment that inspires, respects, enables self-discovery, and fosters growth; prioritizes diversity of ideas, experience and compassion; in other words, leadership through centering and empowering colleagues.

It may not always be easy, particularly in environments where upper leadership is not used to this kind of leadership style (or doesn't value it at first), but it's worth it.

Sound off: what leadership and collaboration style have you found works best for you and your coworkers?

Manny is one of the most hard-working, dedicated and loyal members of the team who embodies the Tesla spirit more than anyone I know. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty more times than I can count.

Victor Barclay, Sr. Software Engineering Manager @ Tesla
Sr. Software Engineering Manager @ Tesla

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