All the organizations, whether civil, political or business, need leaders. A leader is someone who, by his ability, knowledge and experience, can take decisions and decide the next course of action. They are instrumental in showing any organization a path to walk.
All the leaders have their own signature leadership styles. Such style may have been present inherent or acquired out of their own course of education and observation. Facilitative, Transformational, Lassiez-Faire, Autocratic are a few of such styles of leadership. They collectively signify the leadership traits of any leader.
Autocratic Leadership may perhaps be the oldest kind of leadership style known to mankind. A leader is said to be an autocratic leader or authoritarian leader where he takes all the decisions; sets up all the policies and procedures related to the task at hand or the broader management and control function on his own, without any inputs of consultation from his subordinates.
He also very minutely scrutinizes the progress of the work and is very deeply involved in every managerial and tactical aspect. He is the sole decision-making authority and demands highly strict accountability and compliance from his subordinates.
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Characteristics Of Autocratic Leadership
The following are the characteristics of the autocratic leadership style:
1) Autocratic leader is knowledgeable
An autocratic leader is virtually the only driving force behind any project or organization. He generally possesses knowledge superior to his peers in his field so as to command a leading position singlehandedly and make correct decisions.
2) The authoritarian leader is highly motivated and task-oriented
The motivation levels and achievement drive for an authoritarian leader are very high. He has a deep, passionate involvement with every task and wants to see everything executed as per his plans or expectations.
3) The autocratic leader doesn’t encourage creative inputs from his subordinates
Autocratic leader has clearly defined standards and outcomes about any project that he oversees. As a result, he has every detail meticulously planned out and doesn’t invite his team members to give any strategic suggestions. He wants them only to carry out his instructions.
4) Autocratic leadership style facilitates quick decision making
Due to a closely controlled nature of operations, the business managed by an autocratic leader is agile and is better positioned to respond to any changes. This is because the decision making is centralized, so the leader quickly decides the course of action and the organization follows suit.
5) Line of operations, procedures, and responsibilities are determined in detail and well in advance
An authoritarian leadership style comes equipped with detailed planning. The operational procedures to be followed are etched out to their minutest detail very early in the planning stage. The only thing expected out od the subordinates is execution.
6) This style offers very little flexibility to the employees
Under authoritarian leadership, the ways of working are quite rigid, allowing for little change or improvisation from the employees’ end. This leads to very little functional flexibility for the team members.
Under which circumstances can an Authoritarian Leader flourish?
Autocratic style of leadership is most suitable where:
1) There is some crisis requiring quick decision making
In case of a crisis, the team members can look up to an authoritarian leader to shield them from the uncertainties and potential dangers. The only thing they have to do is to perform the tasks carved out for them. This leads to quick decision making promote responses from the organization in the face of crisis.
2) Where the organization is very small
Business organizations with smaller scale of operations don’t have room for many leaders. This is because the range of critical decision making is severely limited and most of the operations are of routine nature. Here, just one autocratic organization can effectively steer the organization.
3) Where the employees are inexperienced
Under such circumstances, an Autocratic Leader can produce best results as he has nothing to expect from his team members, them being too junior and inexperienced.
4) Where the task at hand is highly complicated
There are some industries or work areas that are very complex, laced with inherent dangers and meticulous planning is required to coordinate the efforts of the team members in a unified direction. These circumstances are present in the constructions industry, ship-building industry, and even military.
An experienced, authoritarian leader can ensure focused, responsible and safe work environments in such cases.
Advantages Of Autocratic Leadership
Though sounding draconian, the autocratic leadership style is not completely devoid of benefits. Its advantages are as follows:
1) An autocratic leader is in close control of the organization. Hence, he ensures that the products manufactured and services rendered meet the desired quality benchmarks. All the standard operating procedures are also followed.
2) The employees get thoroughly indoctrinated into the ways of working of their respective functions due to close scrutiny and direct accountability to their autocratic leaders. This proves to be an advantageous proposition of on-the-job training for the employees, especially the inexperienced ones.
3) The organization is in a better position to respond to any crisis
Due to 24*7 involvement of the authoritarian leader, the organization is quick on its feet to respond to any emergency or crisis.
4) Detailed and intricate projects are completed on times due to the authoritarian style of leadership due to close supervision and high degree of accountability incorporated by an autocratic leader.
5) Inexperienced employees learn better from the hands-on style of execution of an Autocratic leader.
Disadvantages Of Autocratic Leadership
The word ‘autocratic’ has negative connotations and there are indeed some disadvantages inherent to this management style:
1) Doesn’t work with talented, experienced and independent employees
Authoritarian leadership style doesn’t work with a team of self-motivated, talented and experienced employees because they have a very strong individual voice which is difficult to curb. They are highly accomplished professionals in their own right and are accustomed to devising their own ways of working.
An autocratic leadership style will fail miserably with such a team, as it would reject a tight-fisted control outrightly.
2) The growth of an organization is stifled due to dearth of fresh, creative ideas
As an autocratic leader doesn’t entertain any fresh, strategic inputs from his team members, the growth trajectory of the organization may be severely limited and myopic due to constraints on the though process of the leader.
3) There is high employee attrition
The employees may feel suffocated as almost all the freedom to figure out how to perform their duties is revoked under authoritarian leadership. As a result, they may choose to quit their jobs.
4) It generally causes resentment within the subordinates
The autocratic leader may alienate his teammates and subordinates due to an excessive degree of close monitoring of the project.
5) The growth of the employees is restrained
Due to meticulously crafted job roles and routines, that are planned well in advance by an authoritarian leader; the employees are just expected to perform their routine functions. They aren’t allowed to take new initiatives or rise up to the challenge of managing a situation on their own.
This restricts them to a mere executive-level function, limiting their growth potential.
Here is a video by Marketing91 on Autocratic Leadership.
Examples of Autocratic Leaders
There are many examples of the Autocratic Leadership style. All the dictators, erstwhile and modern, have been highly autocratic leaders. This category features names such as Adolf Hitler, Mussolini, Kim- Jong-Un, etc.
Amongst the business leaders, Steve Jobs is the quintessential example of the autocratic style. He created and nurtured a phenomenal brand ‘Apple’ almost single-handedly worth his autocratic leadership style. He had a very minute eye for details and very deep involvement with almost every project under his leadership at Apple.
Being a creative genius, he was able to create the digital music industry with his vision and legendary technologies under the iconic brand ‘Apple’.
How to make this style effective?
Though riddled with some negative perceptions, Autocratic Leadership style can be effective to achieve desired results provided:
1) The leader gives room to the subordinates to express their views
A leader, though autocratic, may at least be open to listening to the views and opinions of the subordinates. This makes them feel as more contributing members of any endeavor, rather than mere executives.
2) The leader genuinely appreciates efforts of the subordinates
The leader has to respect the efforts of his subordinates and appreciate them in order to boost their morale.
3) The rules and policies are clearly defined
Defining clearly the scope of work makes it easier for the employees onboard to carry out their duties properly and without any ambiguities, the lack of which may demoralize them further.
4) The leader is consistent and doesn’t abuse his authority
The leader exercising his dominance and authority justly and fairly will encourage the employees to follow the commands in good faith. Any unfair treatment from the autocratic leader may lead to the failure of business operations.
5) The leader is supportive of the grooming of the inexperienced employees
An autocratic leader can be effective and earn appreciations if he invests in honing the skills of his subordinates with the right training and support.
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