Whether you’re a manager, an HR professional, or an employee, it’s crucial to understand the different leadership styles and their impact on the workplace. And one typical leadership style is autocratic leadership, where the leader exercises full control and authority over decision-making without seeking input, opinions, or feedback from subordinates. But does autocratic leadership still work in today’s modern workplaces?
Let’s take a closer look.
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What Is Autocratic Leadership?
Autocratic leadership (also known as authoritarian leadership) is a leadership style in which leaders have complete control and authority over decision-making without considering input, opinions, or feedback from their team.
Basically, the boss is in charge of everything and doesn’t ask for other people’s ideas or thoughts. They may not require much collaboration or creativity, frequently giving orders and expecting subordinates to obey without question.
What is the characteristic of autocratic leadership?
Here are some common traits of autocratic leaders:
- They take charge of all methods and work processes used in their organizations.
- They may not trust their employees’ ideas or ability to handle important tasks, preferring to make decisions on their own.
- They typically prefer a rigid and highly structured organization.
- They need their employees to strictly follow established principles and standards.
- They may dismiss the creativity and innovative thinking of employees.
Autocratic Leadership Examples
Here are some real-life examples of autocratic leadership:
1/ Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs is a well-known example of an autocratic leader. During his tenure as CEO of Apple, he had complete control over the company’s decision-making process and was known for his demanding and critical management style. He had a clear vision of what he wanted Apple to be, and he was not afraid to make unpopular decisions to achieve that vision.
He was famous for his attention to detail and insistence on perfection, which often put immense pressure on his employees. He was also known for berating and belittling employees who failed to meet his high standards. This management style led to low employee morale and high turnover rates at Apple.
He was criticized for his lack of empathy and for creating a culture of fear at Apple. After his death, the company underwent a significant cultural shift towards a more collaborative and inclusive leadership style.
2/ Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin has used his authoritarian leadership style to consolidate his control over Russia and its political system. He has established a strong reputation as a tough and decisive leader who can defend Russia’s interests against foreign threats. Putin’s policies have also helped stabilize the Russian economy and increase its global influence.
However, Putin’s leadership style has been criticized as undemocratic and suppresses political dissent. He has also been accused of human rights abuses, including the suppression of political opponents and the suppression of LGBTQ rights.
3/ Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, also has the traits of an autocratic leader.
For example, Bezos is known to be very down-to-earth and involved in Amazon’s day-to-day operations. He is described as a micromanager, often questioning his employees’ decisions and pushing them to meet high standards. Also, he is known for making unilateral decisions without consulting his team.
Despite this, Bezos built Amazon into one of the most successful companies in the world by thinking long-term and being willing to take risks.
4/ The Military
To make it easier for you to understand, the military is a typical organization that applies autocratic leadership.
The military is an organization with a hierarchical structure and a chain of command that are critical to its success. Thus, autocratic leadership is often used to ensure quick and decisive decision-making in critical situations.
In the military, orders come from the highest command level and are communicated through the ranks. Lower-level employees must obey orders without question, even if they disagree with the order. The military’s rigid structure and emphasis on discipline help ensure that orders are followed quickly and efficiently.
When Is Autocratic Leadership Most Effective?
As you have seen above, many great people apply the authoritarian leadership style to bring about many achievements for all mankind. This style has its own advantages that are suitable in some specific work environments or situations such as:
1/ Quick decision making
Autocratic leaders are often capable of making quick and decisive decisions. Because they will build up the most optimal strategy and force the employees to follow their orders. As a result, businesses will not fall into the case of projects being delayed, or in situations when clear direction is needed.
Because autocratic leaders make all choices, they are frequently held accountable for their decisions and actions. This can assist the leader to create a sense of responsibility and ownership, which can benefit the organization and provide employees with peace of mind.
3/ Maintain stability
Autocratic leadership can create a stable and predictable work environment, as rules and policies are often strictly followed. And this motivates employees to perform assigned tasks on time, along with avoiding the backlog of work.
4/ Compensate for a lack of experience or skills
Autocratic leaders can compensate for the inexperience or skill gaps of their team members. They provide clear instructions, supervision, and direction to the team, which can help to avoid mistakes and achieve goals more efficiently.
Does Autocratic Leadership Still Work?
Autocratic leadership, while effective in the past, is becoming less popular and less effective in today’s modern companies. So many organizations are adopting more inclusive and collaborative leadership styles that prioritize employee engagement, empowerment, and creativity – something the autocratic style would struggle to achieve due to its downsides.
1/ Limit creativity and innovation
Autocratic leaders often make decisions without considering the inputs nor needing feedback from others. As a result, the team’s potential to create and innovate is limited because no new projects are considered or promoted, leading to missed opportunities for growth and improvement.
2/ Reduce employee job satisfaction
Authoritarian leadership styles can make employees feel undervalued and unappreciated because their ideas or initiatives are easily dismissed. This can lead to emotions of disengagement, unhappiness, and low morale, which can hinder employees’ job satisfaction and productivity.
3/ Lack of employee empowerment
The fact that managers make all decisions without the participation of team members leads to a lack of employee empowerment. This can prevent employees from taking ownership of their work and feeling invested in the organization’s success.
4/ Negative impact on employees’ well-being
Strictly following the rules and not having a say in the work can make employees feel high pressure, and bored and create an unhealthy work environment. This can lead to burnout and other problems of mental health at the workplace.
5/ Limit opportunities for growth and development
Autocratic leaders may focus less on developing the skills and abilities of their team members, which can limit growth opportunities for employees in the organization. This can lead to high turnover rates and difficulty attracting top talent. As a result, the market competitiveness of businesses suffers.
|Overall, Autocratic leadership can have both positive and negative sides, and its effectiveness often depends on the context in which it is applied.
On the bright side, autocratic leaders are often able to make quick and decisive decisions. This can be useful in situations where time is of the essence or when a leader’s expertise is needed to make an important decision. Additionally, autocratic leaders can maintain tight control over their organization and ensure error prevention, which can be especially important in high-risk industries like healthcare or aviation.
However, autocratic leaders can also have negative consequences such as being authoritarian or controlling, making it easier to make decisions that benefit themselves or a small group of insiders rather than the entire organization. This can create resentment and lower employee morale, affecting employee development as well as the organization as a whole.
It is important to recognize that autocratic leadership has both potential benefits and drawbacks. While it may be appropriate in certain situations, it is not always the best approach and should be balanced with other leadership styles where necessary.
How To Use Autocratic Leadership Successfully?
To avoid becoming an old-fashioned “disaster” autocratic leader, you can check out these tips to use authoritarian leadership successfully that are relevant to today’s workplace.
1/ Active Listening
Active listening is a communication technique that every leader should practice. It requires you to stay connected and fully focused to understand the message your employees are conveying. It will help you build trust in your employees, help you engage with your employees better, increase employee productivity, and improve the quality of your management.
2/ Show Empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Empathizing with employees can be an important tool for leaders to build trust, improve communication, and create a positive work environment.
So you should put yourself in the employee’s shoes. Consider how you would feel if you were in that employee’s situation. This can help you understand their point of view, recognize their feelings, and show empathy.
Once you’ve identified the employee’s concerns, offer support in any way you can. This could include providing guidance, and resources or simply listening and encouraging.
3/ Praise and Recognize
Praising and recognizing employee efforts is crucial to building a positive work environment, boosting morale, and enhancing productivity. When employees feel appreciated, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged, leading to better job satisfaction and retention rates.
Here are a few tips you can use to motivate employees:
- Be specific: Instead of just saying “Well done,” or “Good job”, be specific about what the employee did well. Example: “I really appreciate how you organize that project, it helped us meet our deadline.”
- Be timely: Don’t wait too long to recognize your employees’ efforts. Instant recognition shows that you are paying attention and appreciate their contributions.
- Use different ways: Consider different ways to commend employees, such as in person, via email, or publicly in a meeting or newsletter. This can help ensure that everyone on the team is aware of employee contributions.
- Encourage peer recognition: Encouraging employees to recognize each other’s efforts can also foster a positive work environment and a culture of recognition.
4/ Help employees in their personal development
Helping employees grow is essential to their long-term success and the success of your organization. Providing opportunities for professional growth and development can help employees feel valued, motivated, and engaged in their work. Here are some ways to help employees grow:
- Provide soft skills training programs: Soft skills training can help employees acquire new skills and knowledge to help them do their jobs better. This may include seminars, courses, online training, mentoring, or coaching programs.
- Encourage career development: Encourage employees to take ownership of their career growth by providing resources such as career coaching, skills assessments, and development plans. This can help employees identify strengths and areas for improvement and create career growth paths.
- Support employees to practice self-paced learning: Identify employee needs and assist employees in finding learning programs that best suit their own pace. You can provide them with e-learning courses or give them the budget to pursue certifications that are awarded online.
5/ Collect Employee Feedback
Getting employee feedback is crucial to creating a positive work environment and improving employee engagement. One way to do this is to use AhaSlides to gather feedback from employees by creating live polls, and live Q&A to collect specific opinions on different topics. Especially real-time feedback makes it possible to get instant feedback from employees during meetings, events, or presentations.
In addition, AhaSlides allows anonymous feedback. This can encourage employees to share their honest opinions without fear of being swayed. This can help you gather more accurate and honest feedback.
By taking employee feedback, you can identify areas of improvement, build trust with employees, and create a more positive work environment. It’s essential to listen to employees and take appropriate action to address their feedback to improve employee engagement and retention.
In conclusion, autocratic leadership can be an effective leadership style in certain situations, such as in emergency or high-pressure situations where quick decisions need to be made. However, it can also be detrimental to employee morale and engagement in the long term, leading to high turnover rates and an unhealthy work environment.
Recognizing the disadvantages of autocratic leadership and considering more democratic or participative leadership styles that empower employees and encourage collaboration is critical. By doing so, organizations can create a more positive work environment that fosters innovation, creativity, and employee engagement, leading to greater success and growth.