Understanding Autocratic Leadership Style

Autocratic Leadership Style

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Autocratic Leadership Style

When Mein Kamph was made available to the public decades after being banned, it became a best seller across the globe. Speaking about the struggles of Hitler, the book stayed on top for years. It became an academic mandate for different disciplines. 

Why? 

Everyone was curious to know what led to the becoming of the cruelest leader in history.

Hitler led a catastrophic movement during his time. His propaganda was basically to use FEAR. He was a man with a broad vision and always believed in his decisions. His personality was a summation of various audacious qualities and he used all his qualities in his leadership activities. He was an excellent orator, a brave soldier, and a great leader.

In his autobiography, Mein Kampf, conflict defined most of Hitler’s relationships. Time and forward that become his view of authority. His idea was that a great authoritarian leader must lead the German race in its fight for survival and purify it from harmful influences.

After his release in 1926, Hitler led the Nazi party with his dazzling charisma. 

Hitler was known for setting very high standards not only for himself but also for his followers. He was what the modern world would call a “perfectionist”. Although some of his goals were very farfetched for instance the Nazi army was ordered to invade other nations in a short period of time. It is a positive characteristic of a leader. He is the perfect example of an autocratic leader. His case will help us know what comes in the package under this class of leadership.

WHAT IS THE CONCEPT OF AUTOCRATIC LEADERSHIP?

Autocratic leadership, also known as authoritarian leadership, is simply described as a system in which there is one explicitly defined “boss” at the top who controls the majority, if not all, of the workload and duty distribution.

While making choices, an autocratic leader disregards the opinions of other team members. The autocratic leader decides on operations, methods, procedures, and delegation.

Autocratic leadership, in reality, is the polar opposite of democratic leadership.

Democratic leadership balances the decision-making responsibility between the group and the leader. 

If you know something about democratic leadership, you know that it sounds better than autocratic, and there are several surveys that show that workers and team members favour this approach. So, why would you ever take a stance that is in direct opposition to that?

BENEFITS THAT COME WITH AUTOCRATIC LEADERSHIP

Let’s be clear: there’s a reason why autocratic leadership persists. It’s not a coincidence or a misfortune. 

Authoritarian leadership means that the leader has full power. Authoritarian leaders tell groups what to do and expect group members to execute. Under time pressure, this style may work well, allowing the leader to make a quick decision and providing the group with direct instructions. An authoritarian leader who presents a clear vision can motivate a divided group.

Many organisations all over the world have embraced autocratic leadership. It would be naive not to understand the reasons why autocracy has found a footing in the business world over time.

So, when does an organisation become autocratic? When a company’s back is against the wall and they need to produce results fast, regardless of the process, it’s usually the last resort.

But why is this the case? Why do we instinctively gravitate toward a hardline leadership style like autocracy when it comes to producing results? Is autocratic rule a guarantee of success? Is it possible that business owners have been doing it wrong for a long time?

This style of leadership has been studied by many educational institutions.

According to the paper The Positive Effect of Authoritarian Leadership on Employee Performance: The Moderating Role of Power Distance, they proposed that authoritarian leadership would enhance employee performance based on the following reasons.

  1. First, authoritarian leaders can be effective by setting specific and unambiguous goals for their subordinates. Authoritarian leaders always have the last say in their organizations and provide a singular mission upon which followers can focus on their job responsibilities, without uncertainty (Cheng et al., 2000; Schaubroeck et al., 2017). According to goal setting theory, higher performance levels are usually reached when goals are specific, rather than ambiguous (Locke and Latham, 2006).
  2. Second, authoritarian leaders typically enhance followers’ sense of identity as group members, which further motivates employees to perform at a high level (Schaubroeck et al., 2017). As Rast et al. (2013) argued, authoritative leaders are more likely to provide a clear, unambiguous, and direct prototype with their subordinates. They usually require subordinates to obey their rules completely and punish them if they do not follow their orders (Chan et al., 2013). As a result, employees could gain a better understanding of what they should do and should not do as team members.
  3. Third, some scholars believe that authoritarian leaders usually set high-performance standard expectations for their subordinates (Aycan, 2006). As Chen et al. (2017) argued, authoritarian leaders demand their subordinates to achieve the best performance by exercising strict control, setting clear rules, establishing job responsibilities, issuing punishment and rewards. Consequently, employees are motivated to perform strongly, delivering excellent quality. 

Thus, when a specific goal is set for employees, goal attainment provides them with an objective, unambiguous basis for evaluating the effectiveness of their performance. Although authoritarian leaders exercise tight control and unquestioned submission, the underlying reason is to promote followers’ performance.

Therefore, we expect to observe a positive relationship between authoritarian leadership and employee performance.

When we consider the characteristics of an autocratic leader, we can see that they build a solid framework within the organisation, with clearly defined positions and clear direction for all. Great – it’s important for employees to have a clear understanding of the company’s structure and a common goal toward which everyone is working.

Since there is one consistent focal point at the top where decisions are taken, an autocratic leader would establish clear lines of communication. Let me caution you, however, that this is not the same as establishing communication channels. Despite the fact that these lines have been drawn, an autocratic leader discourages free and truthful contact. Giving contact a specific path may potentially discourage it, which is a common occurrence in companies.

In other words, if you’re considering autocratic leadership as a management strategy for your business, you’re looking for someone who will crack the whip with little to no concern for the well-being of your employees.

If it wasn’t obvious already, this is not a leadership style that anyone would recommend, particularly in difficult times. If you want to get the most out of your squad, no matter what, you must cultivate them into producing the results you desire. 

DRAWBACK OF AUTOCRATIC LEADERSHIP

So, we’ve discussed why you may be considering appointing an autocratic leader, but what is the real truth about such a strategy?

In an autocratic organisation, community members are rarely trusted with important decisions or responsibilities, which can be a demotivating factor for many. When you build your organisation on the autocratic model, you remove individual members’ responsibilities, giving them every excuse to feel demoralised in their positions.

Workloads are usually well-structured and carefully organised. As a result, qualities like creativity and innovation are discouraged in the workplace, and workers are told to carry out their responsibilities exactly as they are written, leaving no space for them to develop or contribute ideas to the company.

COMPETENCIES OF AUTOCRATIC LEADERSHIP

Represented by The Leadership Circle’s 360-degree profile, it connects a well-researched battery of competencies with the underlying and motivating habits of thought. The LCP is the only instrument that measures the two primary leadership domains – Creative Competencies and Reactive Tendencies.

An autocratic leadership style shares most of the competencies of an effective leader.

1. CONTROLLING –  Composed of Perfect, Drive, Ambition, and Autocartice measurements. 

  • Perfect is a measure of the leader’s need to attain flawless results and perform to extremely high standards in order to feel secure and worthwhile as a person. Worth and security are equated with being perfect, performing constantly at heroic levels, and succeeding beyond all expectations.
  • Driven is a measure of the extent to which the leader is in overdrive. It is a measure of his/her belief that worth and security are tied to accomplishing a great deal through hard work. It measures his/her need to perform at a very high level in order to feel worthwhile as a person. A good work ethic is a strength of this style, provided that the leader keeps things in balance and is able to balance helping others achieve with his/her own achievement.
  • Ambition measures the extent to which the leader needs to get ahead, move up in the organization, and be better than others. Ambition is a powerful motivator. This scale assesses if that motivation is positive, furthering progress — or negative, overly self-centered, and competitive.
  • Autocratic measures the leader’s tendency to be forceful, aggressive, and controlling. It measures the extent to which he/she equates self-worth and security to being powerful, in control, strong, dominant, invulnerable, or on top. Worth is measured through comparison, that is, having more income, achieving a higher position, being seen as a most/more valuable contributor, gaining credit, or being promoted.

2. ACHIEVING – Strategic Focus, Purposeful & Visionary, Achieves Results and Decisiveness. 

  • Strategic Focus measures the extent to which the leader thinks and plans rigorously and strategically to ensure that the organization will thrive in the near and long-term.
  • Purposeful & Visionary measures the extent to which the leader is goal directed and has a track record of goal achievement and high performance.
  • Achieves Results measures the degree to which the leader is goal directed and has a track record of goal achievement and high performance.
  • Decisiveness measures the leader’s ability to make decisions on time, and the extent to which he/she is comfortable moving forward in uncertainty.

3. PROTECTING summary dimension measures the belief that the leader can protect himself/herself and establish a sense of worth through withdrawal, remaining distant, hidden, aloof, cynical, superior, and/or rational. It is composed of:

  • Arrogance measures the leader’s tendency to project a large ego — behavior that is experienced as superior, egotistical, and self-centered.
  • Critical is a measure of the leader’s tendency to take a critical, questioning, and somewhat cynical attitude.
  • Distance is a measure of the leader’s tendency to establish a sense of personal worth and security through withdrawal, being superior and remaining aloof, emotionally distant, and above it all.

We discussed the potential of autocratic leadership to clearly identify contact lines in the workplace, but the trade-off is that you end up inhibiting communication across the board. Just because the teams know who to talk to doesn’t mean they’ll do so.

Let us put it out clearly: this is not a criticism of an autocratic leader’s personality; rather, it is an observation of the efficacy and impact of establishing an autocratic framework. Many autocratic leaders care about their employees’ advancement and growth, but they are constrained by the system in which they work.

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