The Renaissance period Italian statesman, Niccolo Machiavelli, once said this about leadership, “It is better to be feared than loved…

But does this age-old advice ring true in the contemporary workplace?

All employees want great managers, yet few enjoy that luxury. But what really makes a great manager?

Some say it’s more effective to use fear tactics to get results. Others argue that a positive can-do management style is best for productivity. So what’s the answer?

‘Monster Managers’

We probably have all had managers at some point in our careers who we thought were real jerks, albeit for different reasons. Have you ever had a manager that would make a great Army drill sergeant? You know, the kind that:

  • Micromanages your work assignments and watches the clock.
  • Towers over your shoulder barking orders as you sweat it out.Gets angry often and lets staff know it. They yell. They Curse. They finger point. Some even hurl phones against the wall or at staff.
  • Rigidly adheres to the organization’s byzantine bureaucratic culture, even at the cost of lost productivity.
  • Plays favorites with staff or displays nepotism, and
  • Is an arrogant “back stabber” and two-faced.

These are managers who rule by the sword and wear authority on their sleeves.

They make you cringe or hide under the desk when they approach. The result: employees carry out their work with a sense of fear, loathing and even paranoia. These employees feel as if they can’t make any mistakes or do anything wrong — lest the monster manager eats them alive.

Yes, these monster managers may get results because they are feared. But are they getting the best results possible in the most effective and efficient way?

Do monster managers get the most productivity out of staff? Is this a good management and leadership approach?

‘Moses Managers’

On the other side, perhaps you’re one of the chosen few who are lucky to have — or have had — a manager like the biblical figure Moses. That’s a manager who exudes leadership and respect, knows how to motivate the team, create a positive work culture for all employees, and works “miracles” in crisis situations. This type of manager:

  • Is always positive, energetic and upbeat.
  • Is quick to praise staff and point out what worked well.
  • Is always professional in appearance and mannerisms.
  • Shows genuine appreciation to staff and makes all employees feel like they have an important role on the team.
  • Is humble, modest and quick to give credit to others.
  • Recognizes and rewards staff for exemplary work, and/or
  • Leverages workplace flexibility, such as telework, to enhance your work-life integration— which has also been shown to increase employee productivity, accountability and organizational loyalty.

This type of manager is often “loved” not loathed.

The result: employees are engaged, have high-morale, and go the extra mile when needed. These employees view their manager as a true leader whom they look up to, admire, respect, and want to work hard for without prodding. Employees truly trust this type of manager.

My Take

Fortunately, I’ve been lucky to have a “Moses Manager” for the past seven years. However, I’ve had “Monster Managers” before and know firsthand how they can make an employee’s work-life miserable — to the detriment of the office and organization.

Thus, I think the management and leadership approach of being loved rather than feared is best if one must choose between the two different styles.

This is because the “Moses Manager” often achieves exemplary bottom-line results by maximizing employee productivity while maintaining high staff morale and contributing to a healthy work environment. This style serves as a catalyst for employees to thrive by reaching their maximum potential.

But that’s just my take. What’s YOUR experience been like?

  • If you’ve had a bad boss how did you deal with it?
  • If you’ve had a beloved manager did you find any drawbacks or unintended consequences?
  • Is there a middle ground between the two management styles?

Please share your valuable feedback below…

* All views and opinions are those of the author only.

Originally published at


  • David is a strategic communications consultant delivering high ROI via earned media, social media marketing, branding, blogging and ghostwriting. As a former federal government spokesman, he’s held political and career positions in the White House, Congress, EEOC and OMB. A native New Yorker, David graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Journalism and worked in the national news media prior to his public service.