Follow Me—Or Else!

New and exciting ways of failing in leadership positions surface on a regular basis these days. I have noticed a growing attitude in newly minted executive leaders and first-time supervisors that are surprisingly onerous. The attitude is a subtle arrogance. It is a ‘do as I say because that is the way I want things done’ attitude.’ Better said: Follow me, or else! The thinly veiled threat communicated loud and clear.

Follow me or else is clearly not the right way to build a following. Too many new to leadership positions, regardless of level, are resorting to this methodology. I have written quite a few articles full of leadership tips and sound advice. There are more articles providing sound leadership guidance found on the Internet than there are one-ounce drops of water in the Pacific Ocean. I suspect the advice is not taken because it’s free advice, an odd foible of the human nature.

I will not go into a long list how to lead so others will want to follow. The article would be too long. So, let me provide the top three quickest ways to lose the followership of those you lead. They are: convey a threat, get caught in a lie, and humiliate a team member. Of these top three, conveying a threat will achieve an immediate, visceral, and potentially dangerous response. It is “Or Else!” leadership.

“Or Else!”

Leading by threats “Or Else” is the sign of one of two issues going on with the leader—the leader is tired or does not have an understanding of how to lead. The Marines will tell you “tired men (and women) make mistakes.” There is no mistake greater a leader can make than ruling through fear. That is the essence of Or Else Leadership. Using fear to make an employee produce will work. It will work as long as your threat is credible. Credible is following through on the threat if the expected results are not produced. “Or Else” leadership, in my experience, never ends well for the leader.

A lack of follow through on an “Or Else” denudes the leader of their authority. The leader becomes an empty suit. What little respect a leader that uses this style of leadership has, is gone forever.

The “Or Else” leader that Follows through on threats creates an atmosphere where employees accomplish what they are told, nothing more. As a result of working for an “Or Else” leader most if not all of these employees can recite their job descriptions in agonizing detail. They will not do more than required.

I have written about creating heroes in the workplace. Every organization needs its heroes. These are the women and men who go the extra mile; they are known for doing more than is required by the job description. The “Or Else” leaders are not known for having heroes in their organization. Rather, they are known for having a high turnover of talented people, struggling to make their margins and produce adequate results.


There is no long-term upside to “Or Else” leading. Short-term results will rarely produce results that get a leader noticed in a positive light. Long-term results regardless of how good they may be, are accompanied by personnel complaints that end up in HR. And sadly, some results are accompanied by violence in the workplace.

My advice, if you are an “Or Else” leader, heed some of this free advice or get yourself into a leadership program somewhere. You will benefit beyond your wildest imagination and so will those you lead.

© 2015 by John Boggs all rights reserved.