You may not be the most popular leader around, but being an autocrat has its advantages. While often condemned in favor of other forms of leadership, Autocratic Leadership is sometimes the key to a strong workplace. Keyword: Sometimes.
Characteristics of an Autocratic Leader
Simple –do as I say or get out. Leaders like these set clear, but non-negotiable instructions. Workers have little input into the project; instead they are forced to comply with the strict opinions and decisions of the leader. Some leaders take it a step further and refuse to entrust any complex or important work in the hands of their follower.
Crises are the ideal situations for this leadership style. While other leaders are all willy-nilly in handling the crisis, autocratic leaders are busy dishing out firm commands and expectations. Short term projects with urgent deadlines flourish under these leaders too. Input and suggestions from the team are substituted by decisive decisions from the autocratic leader.
Employees need not waste time calculating the best decision –The leader does it for them. This has the added benefit of concentrating a worker’s effort; thus specializing them in a narrow field of work.
A project which has been plagued by poor organization and direction may initially need an autocratic leader to put things back on track. Sometimes workers have been so accustomed to spineless leaders, so much so, that any leader wishing to take over will have to overcome the initial barrier of sluggishness.
Harsh it may sound, but a strict and demanding leader would be more capable in delegating tasks and establishing clear work practices. After the mess has been cleared up and the project is going smoothly, a different approach can be taken: Perhaps a transition to Transformational Leadership would be more effective now.
I found the following video when I was searching for a related video to include in this post. This looks silly, but the message is effective.
Prepare to be despised. Autocratic leaders are universally hated mostly because no one likes being bossed around or told what to do directly. By virtue of being autocratic, these leaders probably can handle the unpopularity naturally. However, it can translate to problems in the future. Morale is usually an issue: The moment the pressure from the leader is relaxed, all hell breaks loose. Minor issues such as employees covering up mistakes and tainting your image with higher management can be a hindrance.
On a productivity-focused note, an autocratic leader gets less bang for their buck. Employees are stripped of creativity, leaving them mindless drones merely following instructions. The full benefit of an individual, including ideas, talents and perspectives, cannot be extracted in this manner. This makes Autocratic Leadership extremely inefficient in long term and creativity-based projects. Even other projects can suffer under the hands of this leadership style.
Employees are also less likely to go the extra mile, instead working only when pressured. More so, autocrats will face a huge burden as the project becomes bigger. This is because decision making becomes too big a job for a single individual to handle; it is better for the people on the ground who understand the situation to make the right choices.
Good leaders know when to pander to their autocratic side. Rather than use it as a full-fledged style of leadership, try to pick out specific situations that require it. When supplemented with other leadership styles, it becomes a tremendously useful tool in the arsenal of a leader or manager.