Fear-Based Leadership In Network Marketing – Does This Sound Familiar?

Network Marketing is populated by people mostly who have sought out the business model because they consider themselves naturally entrepreneurial.  They come into the industry and make decisions to work on their own terms because they are tired and ‘over’ the corporate pressure. Most of them love to say they ‘fired their bosses’.

The only problem is that SOME leaders in Network Marketing actually are more familiar with corporate culture than living the entrepreneurial life  or interacting with entrepreneurs.   So at times we find upline leaders within Network Marketing who have left corporate america and yet haven’t left corporate america.

If you are following me,  you will catch on.

In other words, they have brought with them a corporate sensibility. Oftentimes, they subconsciously will see their downline as their ’employees’ that they get to ‘boss’ around.   So, for those of us who have ‘fired our bosses,’ and  have entered the industry for freedom as our own bosses, this projection by a strong upline can lead to conflict.  When a successful network marketer isn’t really an entrepreneur at all but rather a corporate retiree, they may bring the concept and vision of hierarchy with them into their communication and team culture. This can be a problem.   I have observed several situations in Network Marketing of upline intimidation and fear-based leadership. I must also clarify that most of us have been blessed to not have to deal with that type of dynamic. However, it is important also to discuss and give perspective to a problem that does exist in the industry.



So how can you identify if you are under FEAR-BASED LEADERSHIP:

Thank you LIZ RYAN of FORBES MAGAZINE for inspiration behind this blog post….


I created a list of 6 points.

I wanted to take my inspiration from this article and extrapolate it into the Network Marketing Industry:


Within NWM there are  systems. The systems are important to follow because they are tried and true. However, within companies, teams create their own systems as well that are not necessarily endorsed by corporate leadership.  Some of these systems that are created by an upline may never be taught in a national corporate training. However, I have seen many up and coming leaders be cut off from their upline because they choose to opt to follow standard practices only or get creative and add apply their own systems.  These new leaders have been cut out of Facebook support pages and been discredited within the team because they ‘refused to follow protocol.’ Upline leaders who will cut people off from not agreeing with the team system (over standard systems) are applying intimidation by excluding these downline distributors from their trainings and support.


If you are noticing high praise for one person and the demonizing of another you may be under fear-based leadership.  Fear based leaders like to praise people who are highly successful who are ‘following the system and team rules,’ and demonize the people who aren’t.  Liz Ryan says ‘you are either a friend or foe.’   There is really no in between.  The people in between are at times ignored and still vilified because they haven’t risen to the ranks expected by their upline.  At times, very successful people within a team can be vilified because they aren’t in full agreement of the culture of the team.


Fear-based leaders do not seek clarification through conversations.  Fear-based leaders seek self validation by creating stories that are not based on truth. They rely and believe here-say.   Fear-based leaders often create stories about others without substantiated proof and share them with the team in order to maintain authority and power in order to minimize the influence of a strong leader in their downline.  Strong leaders who lead out of love always seek understanding first and refuse to gossip or have side conversations or phone calls vilifying other team leaders.  Strong leaders will humble themselves when they are wrong and set a standard for ‘no gossip’ being allowed in their organization. They will also seek truth above gossip.


Fear-based leaders love their trophies and will crush people on their team to get there.  I have heard stories of leaders who will recruit relatives of team mates as their own personally enrolled or take someone from a three-way call and place them in their organization as their recruit rather than serving new leaders in their organization with integrity.  They also love to share their own awards and accolades with others upon their first meeting.   A love-based leader will be honored and respectful of the recognition but always place relationship over recognition.  A love-based leader will applaud and support the success of others who have come into their downline who out perform them.


Fear-based leaders despise creativity and do not understand people who function out of the box.  In fact, they may insist that any creative idea is a bad one.  However, once that idea turns into a standard practice they like to take credit in having developed that practice with their team mate (even if they didn’t).  There was a time when nobody recruited using Facebook. Now this is standard practice. It wasn’t long ago that new distributors were discouraged and criticized for using social media to recruit new members into their businesses.  This is now standard practice.  But it took new leaders (defying the strong advice of some less creative veteran upline leaders)to take action to form a new practice (aka social media recruiting).  This now standard process was the result of new (out-of-the-box) leaders taking strides  in spite of being ostracized and highly criticized by their upline leaders.


I tell people all the time, ‘if Jesus, Mother Teresa or Ghandi came into your business today they would be at the lowest leadership level.”   The quality of an individual and value of that person has nothing to do with rank.  Fear-based leaders do not value people who don’t have quantitive data to deserve respect in their eyes.  They want to see numbers.  How many people have you enrolled? How much money have your efforts earned them?  Will people be impressed with THEM when they see that they have a rock star in their downline? Are you that rockstar?    Fear-based leaders are fearful of being seen poorly in the eyes of corporate leadership. You are only valuable to them if your activities are being recognized as being valuable by the organization you are in. Fear-based leadership is not love-based or humble. If you are not performing, you are not valuable to them.


The good news is that most people in our awesome industry are not subjected to fear-based leaders. However, it is also not RARE to hear stories like the ones above. If you are someone who is subjected to that type of behavior from your upline,  it is important to rise up as a leader and create boundaries.  Talk to your corporate leadership. Most Network Marketing Companies know that teams need to separate or split off at times.  This is not unusual and doesn’t even need to be a reflection of anything other than making a decision to pull your own team together for healthy growth.   We are in an industry of leaders.  Because of such strong personalities, we will see some disharmony.   At the end of the day, if your corporate team and the owners of your company are people who seek love and are love-based, you will be fine and be able to continue with growing your team without fear and intimidation. However, if you see that intimidation coming from the top then that could be a legitimate problem.

I have been blessed to have witnessed a company culture of leadership based on love and am grateful. But it is important to support your friends and be able to give them perspective.  You do not need to suffer through working in fear and intimidation. If this is the case, create your own group, pull your team in and create a culture where grace, love and humility are the gold standard and you will climb to the top of the company with a loving an joyous heart.


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