Punitive or Inclusive Leadership

Posted on November 19, 2021

A favourite song was playing at our favourite bar last Friday night. Spontaneously, I jumped to my feet with open arms to Michelle: an invitation to dance. The manager approached me from behind, cosied up, and kissing me on the cheek said, "Ray, you know the rules…" and smiled warmly. We happily complied, appreciative of his approach, and knowing we'd return there to dance as soon as the current COVID restrictions eased.

Not so for our friend who was a regular at another hotel, when he had this experience. Forgetting to put his face mask on while making a dash to the bathroom, a new security guard blocked his path and blurted, "If I have to wear a f***ing mask, you have to wear a f***ing mask." A command and a threat. My friend left the hotel feeling hurt and will likely never return.

The bar manager, who I'll call Lewis, because that's his name, demonstrated a warm and inclusive leadership style. It made us want to comply. Lewis believed the best about us: he gave us the power to decide; trusted us to make the right decision and achieved what he had to while maintaining a great relationship with us.

The security guard, however, demonstrated no trust which gave rise to his "do what I say or else" approach - a punitive and autocratic leadership style. By not considering the person, compliance was not achieved, a relationship was broken, and sadly for the hotel, business was lost.

Leaders roles are made easier when team members wholeheartedly embrace responsibilities and comply with requests because they want to. When employees know they are valued and are included in the decision-making process, external requests from the leader have a greater potential to transform into internalised commitment within the employee.

Inclusive leadership lowers resistance in others, improves engagement and inspires people to hang in there through the tougher times when compliance may be needed, rather than walk out the front door never to return.

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