A Machiavellian leader instills fear in his employees, forcing them to conform, “behave,” and act in whatever way the leader insists. Employees in today’s workplace have more depth and variety in their education and training, which has increased their confidence levels, as well as their own leadership skills and networking capabilities.
You’d be hard pressed to find a group of employees willing to cave to a Machiavellian leader’s fear tactics. If you choose to utilize an overly authoritative style, you likely will not be productive, and you might face rebellion or even sabotage. At the very least, the stress you cause will negatively affect your organization.
Surprisingly, some people still attempt to lead by fear. Here are some of the downsides of that approach.
Increased violence in the workplace. When you choose to instill fear in people to the point that they must be complacent and conform to only your ideas or suffer the consequences, then they become ripe to rebel or resort to retaliation in the form of violence—either toward you as a leader or to others in general.
Increased turnover. Those employees who have great ideas and the intelligence to assist organizations in moving forward will not put up with Machiavellian tactics. They will take their skills elsewhere where they will be appreciated.
Decreased effectiveness. As a Machiavellian leader who measures yourself only against yourself, you will miss creative and innovative ideas generated by your employees. Consequently, you will be unable to get as much accomplished because others will no longer support you.
Increased inbreeding ideology. Using only your ideas will cause you to go around in circles and create greater confusion for others. You will stop producing anything new; instead you’ll do and say the same old things, resulting in no innovation.
Decreased efficiency in use of resources. If employees are disregarded for their ideas and input, they often go into shut-down mode. Those employees who are intelligent and capable will most likely not produce any results for you. They will do only what’s necessary to keep their jobs.
Increased litigation of discriminatory complaints. If you continually disregard or disrespect employees, you open the door for legal challenges.
Financial failure. Eventually with such leadership, your organization will be doomed to financial failure because you have not created innovation and opportunity to move your company forward.
Machiavellianism, while a form of leadership worthy of study, is simply not the right match with today’s employees. We have a much more humanistic workplace than ever before and the major keys are communication and sensitivity. Long ago, Machiavellianism may have had its place in leadership, but it cannot produce effective results today.
ASTD Field Editor Carol Decker is an associate professor of business administration at Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens, Tennessee; 1.423.746.5270; email@example.com.
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