I have had several bosses in my past, and they can be divided in approximately two groups: those who have watched too many Mafia movies and think managing employees means holding an imaginary gun to their head, and those who do not.
The bosses who have watched too many, scare their employees into doing things when initiative is lacking. Everyone is afraid of what might happen if they do something that is considered wrong by The Boss. So they only do what they are told to do.
I used to work for a Mafia boss. Almost every one of my actions was criticized, and it nearly always ended with a reference to me losing my job. The same happened if I didn’t follow his exact instructions. To object to or criticize his instructions was a mistake you would make only once in a lifetime. They say hard words break no bones, but I wasn’t so sure about that after I received hard words from my boss. I was trembling so hard that my bones could have easily been broken.
After every action I had taken that wasn’t exactly according to his instructions, we had to conduct 'damage control', because I had performed a Terrible Job. His tirades always ended with the same argument that I had to answer to the CEO of the company, who would not be pleased, and hellfire and fury would come down on me.
After a few tirades, it struck me. This was exactly what he was scared off.
The reason for my manager always scaring us was that he was scared himself. Scared for his position. Scared of his boss. Scared of losing respect. Scared of what other co-workers might think. Indeed, not much different from a mafia boss who fears for his life and takes it out on his soldiers.
He accomplished one thing: I never did anything that wasn’t exactly what he told me to do, and neither did my co-workers. This lead to us having lots of office free-time, and him being on the verge of burn-out.
I guess that was the one thing he wasn’t scared of.