Cheif Learning Officer Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

Is Autocratic Leadership Relevant Today?

 -  8/23/10

While not suitable for many kinds of environments, this style may work in unskilled industries where there is less need for communication and creativity.

Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Attila the Hun and Gen. George Patton all have one thing in common: autocratic leadership. And today there are countless other examples of autocratic leadership in business — even Jack Welch adopted the same style.

It appears that autocratic leadership still prevails — but how successful is it?

What Is Autocratic Leadership?
Autocratic leadership is a style of management that typically involves making important business decisions without the input of others. This usually prevails in military organizations where superiors are not challenged by subordinates. It may be justified when time is short and there is an element of secrecy involved in decision making.

However, in many instances, employees feel suffocated working under autocratic leaders. Turnover and absenteeism may be very high. If anything goes wrong, leaders take the blame. The leader is the center of attention, unlike in democratic leadership where the group is the focus. These leaders may experience more problems as the power is concentrated in fewer hands. If anything goes wrong, the entire organization runs the risk of collapsing like a house of cards.

However, while not suitable for many kinds of environments, this style may work in unskilled industries where there is less need for communication and creativity. And it can work in rare instances in other industries. For example, Martha Stewart was a successful autocratic leader who flourished in a competitive environment. Another example is that of Howell Raines, who was the executive editor of the New York Times from 2001 to 2003. But these are exceptions. The 21st century does not encourage this kind of leadership because employees expect to be treated as partners and collaborators.

There are two types of autocratic leaders: directive autocrats, who make decisions unilaterally and closely supervise subordinates, and permissive autocrats, who make decisions unilaterally and give subordinates latitude in carrying out their work.

Characteristics of Autocratic Leaders
Autocratic leaders typically:

• Are task-oriented and are least concerned about people.



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