Gaurav is having a tough time getting his juniors to perform in his new job at a tech start-up. In his previous position at a manufacturing company, Gaurav did not face this issue, although the staff there were far more inexperienced. Nothing has changed in his style of functioning. Gaurav now spends more time with the new staff, taking every opportunity to personally show each one how to avoid mistakes and improve their performance. Yet, as soon as he enters the room, he can sense the staff get uncomfortable.
While Gaurav might say nothing has changed in his style of functioning, he is now in a new workplace. He has always been a hard taskmaster and, at his previous workplace, this was fine. When senior managers join new organizations with experienced staff, there is often resistance, particularly to an authoritarian leader. Gaurav is unaware of it, but he is an example of autocratic leadership. This style of leadership does not work in all situations. A more democratic approach is needed in an established organization with experienced staff.
Autocratic leadership has negative connotations in modern business. Yet, even today, there are several examples of autocratic leadership in business, government and other institutions. This is because business leadership and corporate success are inextricably linked. While autocratic leadership is one of the least popular management styles, it’s also common because it delivers results.
So, let’s look at some autocratic leadership style examples to understand the concept and why it still works.
What Is An Autocratic Leadership Style?
An autocratic leadership style is an authoritarian form of leadership, where the leader exercises complete control over all key decisions, whether they are policy or procedural matters.
These are key characteristics of an autocratic leader:
- Leader tells people what to do
- Leader is not open to inputs from other employees
- Leader takes full charge and does not trust the team
- Leader micromanages all work activities of teams
- Leader sets high standards for all
- Leader expects to be obeyed
It is not hard to see why this management style is not recommended for the modern workplace. But it still prevails in many organizations.
Autocratic Leadership Examples in Business
While we can find several autocratic leadership style examples in history from the military and political arenas, there are many authoritarian leadership examples in the field of business too. Leaders of Silicon Valley such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk all are examples of autocratic leadership. Yet, these are names people seek to emulate. Although they are examples of autocratic leadership in business, they have also transformed society. Henry Ford, an example for autocratic leadership, transformed the common person’s life through the assembly-line manufacture of automobiles.
Examples of Autocratic Leadership Model
Different leadership models work in different work environments. A democratic or laissez-faire model may work better for a start-up. An autocratic leader may be the need of the hour to streamline processes and improve efficiencies in an established organization. Also, authoritative leadership examples have been beneficial when quick decision-making, high precision and strict discipline are required. Leadership styles in the aerospace industry, fire departments and hospitals are all examples of autocratic leadership. Environments where human safety is of paramount importance are often also examples of the autocratic leadership model.
Very few successful businesses can be attributed to autocratic leadership style examples alone. They combine a variety of leadership styles—democratic, laissez-faire, transformative and autocratic—as the situation demands. Nevertheless, many successful leaders in various fields such as senior executives, businessmen, publishers, filmmakers, or sports coaches are examples of authoritarian leadership. Says Ridley Scott, the famous Hollywood director: “I think, at the end of the day, filmmaking is a team. But, eventually, there’s got to be a captain.”
How To Leverage An Autocratic Leadership Style
Autocratic leadership can still be a model for success in contemporary times if leaders combine their strong decision-making abilities with the following:
Respect for coworkers:
Treat coworkers as colleagues and not as subordinates, and show them due respect. This will create mutual respect and harmony in the workplace.
Communicate with teams:
Explain instructions instead of issuing orders. This will ensure cooperation.
A fair and consistent approach toward all coworkers will go a long way in mitigating the distrust that authoritarian leaders experience.
Take opinions on board:
Encourage coworkers to share their views. It expresses respect towards the co-worker even if suggestions are not implemented.
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