A Good Leader: Feared or Loved?

Machiavelli writes: “It may be answered that one should wish to be both (loved and feared), but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved.” These words make an allusion to the choices all leaders have to make in any situation where their guidance is required. This situation may seem as choosing between being a tyrant or a prophet, but it involves many other things that are not obvious at first, but are essential to fulfill the purpose of being a good leader. Moving others towards an objective requires the leader to choose wisely, always keeping the goal in mind. This can be something difficult to achieve, and many people will wonder what situation is the most beneficial. Will it be for the leader or for the group? I think that a good leader is the one who achieves its goal (which must match the goal the whole group was seeking voluntarily), and regardless of the choice made, he or she becomes a loved one. This proves that the rest of the team appreciated the effort their leader put into the work, and that all he/she did was for everyone’s benefit.

First, let’s briefly define fear and love. Fear is : “A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” On the other hand, love is: “A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.” You may think that it is obvious to choose love, because is the “good” way of doing it. However, that love others have for you is not determinant during the process of your leadership. It will only show up after you have achieved the primal objective. Therefore, it is logical to be “feared” first. Be careful, you do not want to be hated, so modulate the amount of “fear” you use. How? With love. This means that any leadership involves both factors, but that is not the only thing it involves.

If you are choosing between being loved or feared you must have first decided that you do want to be a leader. Keep in mind that a good leader is an exemplary person that teaches through actions; acts with enthusiasm about his/her role and the idea of achieving the goals; is confident about his/her actions because those have been premeditated; remains calm and doesn’t panic; thinks analytically or at least thinks, rather than just doing; is committed to excellence looking for the best results. However, the most important quality is Vision. This means that the leader is able to foresee the path where the group is taken, and has the ability to transform that vision into something real. If the leader has all these qualities it means he or she is a good one, but that doesn’t mean his/her choices are going to be the best.

Remember that a good leader wants what the whole group desires, and is the one moving them towards that goal (yes, Hitler was a good leader). However, you must consider that love and fear are two very common feelings humans have, and we tend to misunderstand them. In most situations, people who love you will do things you hate, at first. As time goes by you will realize that it was all for you good. Therefore, the group may think that the leader is doing things they hate, or that cause them fear, but at the end they will realize that it was necessary to achieve what everyone wanted, which isn’t something bad at all. So, which way is the best? Well, they both belong to leadership!

This proves that we cannot think of leadership as a coin: fear or love. We should rather see it as a sphere: no sides, everything is complementary. Therefore, there is no real choice of being feared or loved; the choice to make is about leadership. Your success as a leader depends on having the necessary qualities. If you don’t have them and you wish to, do what you can to acquire them. From here on there is only one option: is this option about being loved? Or about being feared? No, it is about being a leader. With all this in mind, it is recommended that if you are going to be a leader, do it for a noble cause; making sure that what you are seeking is what the majority wants. And the single most important thing is that you pour all your will and energy into this venture. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

Leadership Fact Sheet



  1. If only more people would hear this..

  2. You’ve done it again! Amazing post.

    • Thanks… I really enjoyed this assignment and it is nice to see that other people appreciate it.

  3. Hah I am actually the first reply to this amazing writing!?

  4. If only I had a penny for every time I came to dreamfaulknervv.wordpress.com… Great article!

  5. […] – “A Good Leader: Feared or Loved?” – https://dreamfaulknervv.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/a-good-leader-feared-or-loved/ […]

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