Skip to main content



Carrot or stick: Which is more effective in management?

Thomas Holenia

Thomas Holenia - President, Henkel Singapore

In today’s global environment, I firmly believe that a manager must shift away from a ‘supervisor’ mindset based on ‘carrot or stick’ and step up to being a leader. This means paying as much attention to business results as developing and inspiring the team. As such, a manager needs to be proactive in encouraging ideas and dialogues as well as in recognising good performance. My experience, having worked in Europe and Asia, is that effective management is about personal interaction and relationships—the ability to listen, appreciate, respect and collaborate with others regardless of backgrounds. When employees are consulted on their ideas and expertise, they tend to be committed and willing to go the extra mile, and, importantly, open to change. An inclusive and collaborative leadership culture thus makes the difference in taking a company from good to great.

Sahba Saint-Claire - CEO, Touché

It is not a question of management, but leadership. Leaders inspire and managers don’t. We are complex beings, a binary approach of carrot or stick is ineffective. Hire the best people you can find and afford. They should have more potential than you. Their success is your success. The key components of effective leadership are: A - Alignment - The entire team needs to be aligned on the overall objectives; B - Belief - Everyone needs to believe in the vision; C – Constant Communication - Give the big picture and make sure they understand their contribution to the overall success; D - Decisiveness - You must be decisive in dealing with underperformance. Do not let it fester - deal with it quickly and directly. The team will be grateful; E - Empowerment - Do not micro-manage. Guide and empower them. They will make mistakes, but will learn.

George Chang - Vice President for Asia Pacific, Fortinet

Human beings are complex, often unfathomable, creatures and taking a carrot-or-stick approach when trying to manage them is perhaps overly simplistic. Yes, rewards can incentivise, and the threat of punishment can keep your staff on the grind. Both, however, assume that external impetus is needed to get the job done, and overlooks the fact that the motivation for excellence can come from within each team and each individual. In reality, internal motivation can be a much more powerful force than external circumstances that management tries to impose on staff. Inspiration in the technology industry has spawned many life changing inventions. Collaboration – in any industry − has led to outcomes that greatly surpassed expectations. Business leaders take steps to inspire their employees, and create an environment where bold ideas can be debated. Only where innovation thrives, can a company become extraordinary.

Jayajyoti Sengupta - Head of APAC, Cognizant

Leaders would do well to revisit the carrot-and-stick approach. Much of today’s workforce consists of millennials who have redefined the concept of “work” and created entirely new social and operating norms. Jobs have become more global, virtual, complex and self-driven. It is time to do away with “command-and-control” structures in favor of “coordinate and cultivate” methods of operation.

Empowering people is a great way to encourage responsibility, commitment and excellence. Business leaders should aim to cultivate experts inside and outside conventional business hierarchies, and nurture and reward behaviours that support collaborative problem-solving. In encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset, individuals should be allowed to take charge of their roles within the framework of organisational values and vision, and provided with the required mentoring, feedback and recognition for them to innovate. Ultimately, it is about creating an ecosystem that’s not fail-safe, but one where it’s safe to fail.

John Lombard - CEO, Dimension Data Asia Pacific

While both the carrot and stick approaches can serve to motivate and influence the desired behaviours, I firmly believe that dangling the carrot is more effective in encouraging employees towards better performance and celebrating success. The stick should only be considered in the areas of corporate compliance. Beyond external motivators, as leaders, we must also focus on cultivating an environment that stimulates intrinsic motivation. I believe that creating a great place to work helps to nurture confident and driven employees. By tapping on their deep-seated need for growth and achievement, significant and tangible results can be attained with true motivation and empowerment. All of these would improve employee retention in this competitive industry, where talents are hard to come by.

Compiled by Rumi Hardasmalani (rumih [at]

Read more of the latest in



Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.