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Leading From A Position Of Fear Or Security

By December 9, 2009Business, Leadership

Leaders, do you lead from a place of fear or a place of security? In my experience, leaders typically tend to lead from one or the other. The leader dominated by fear is afraid of failing, fears that people are out for his or her position, or struggles to delegate and trust others (including God). The leader dominated by a sense of security trusts his or her abilities, is confident in his or her position and has faith in other people (including God).

The result of the difference is significant:

Leading from a position of fear produces:

Holding onto information

Controlling people on team

Failure to take risks

Shying away from change

Stifling leadership development

Suspicion within the organization

Unhealthy competition among team members

Avoidance of accountability

Leading from a secure position produces:

Authentic, transparent and open leadership

Empowering and releasing team


An environment that is change friendly

Cultivation of new leadership


Healthy community among team members

Welcoming accountability

Leaders need to consider whether they tend to lead from a position of fear or a position of security. If he or she really wants to know, they should ask those close to him or her or people on the team for feedback. If fear is the dominant motivator of a leader’s leadership, he or she should deal with his or her personal insecurities before passing them onto the organization.

I have a suspicion the secure leaders will ask….and the one dominated by fear will not.

What do you think? Have you experienced this difference among leaders?

For more leadership thoughts, click HERE.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Leading from fear is one of my soapbox items these days.

    One thing I've noticed in the non-church workplace is that fear causes people to put their entire focus into placating their bosses rather than in creating excellence.

    I work for an incredibly large retailer doing perpetual inventory. Nearly every day we are taken from our mission-critical routine in order to rush some process that should have been done routinely (but wasn't because we were taken off THAT routine in order to rush some OTHER process that should have been done [but wasn't, because…]).

    The undone stuff just piles higher because all anybody can focus on is whatever they're going to get slapped about over. Nobody in management ever seems to notice what's causing their work to remain undone.

    It's all up the line. Placating the Work Gods instead of doing daily what needs to be done.

    It's because they're afraid of losing their jobs because of a bad visit.

    • ronedmondson says:

      That's a great observation Charles. I kind of write about that today in my leading with control vs. leading with influence post. Fear and the domination with it can be a very negative trait for a leader and the team.

  • ronedmondson says:

    Daniel, that's a great question. I think I will make that another post. In the meantime, I have this post that I wrote previously:

    So how do you unlearn to lead from a position of fear, when that's what you confront every single day from people above you?

  • Hey Ron! This is Joshua from oneChurch. This is a great post! More of us who are in leadership need to surface these issues and deal with them. Thanks for posting this!

    The sad thing about fearful leaders is that many times there is some sort of bad church/corporate job experience that has left them wounded. It is sad that the ones who are supposed to lead and protect the broken and hurting in our churches often times end up being the ones who are hurt and broken. It's a sad cycle! I am not sure what the fix is, but I believe that we will have to see church and leadership culture begin to change before insecure leaders can step back into who they should be.

    Michael Bayne has been filling me in on all God is doing at Grace. It's exciting to see! Thanks for loving Clarksville! Blessing to you

  • ronedmondson says:

    Great addition Steve. Thanks for commenting. I'm honored. I love your blog and your continued contribution to leadership.

  • Ron,

    One key ingredient missing from this good discussion is this: leading from a position of fear, by definition, creates a vacuum for the #1 ingredient needed to gain committed followers. That's "trust".

    Insecurity reflects a lack of trust in one's self; this prevents the "leader" from trusting, and showing trust, in others. This undermines the development of genuine relationships needed to effectively oversee a church or business. The result: Conflict, high turnover, and staff needing to spend more time protecting themselves than doing that for which they are gifted.

    Your post can be used as a checklist for interviewing new pastors and leaders as well as those provided as references.

    Keep writing. . .

  • Billy

    Absolutely. I've worked for both types. I thrive under leaders with a secure style. I've floundered under insecure leaders in my career. I have made a personal decision not to work for another insecure leader even if it means my job.

  • @mbweston says:

    Unfortunately, I know of a church that should be one of the few lights in its area that is being destroyed by someone who is leading by fear. I never really put the two together, but the symptoms match up exactly. Thanks for this! I will also be keeping this in mind and checking it against my own actions to see if this is an area of my life I need to work on as well. 🙂

    • ronedmondson says:

      Yea, I know of a few churches that way myself. As a former business person, I know it's easier for that to happen in the church world than in the business world.