Confusion in Corporates – lead by being Democratic, Autocratic or Authoritative?

Successful companies or their managers do not practice, what they preach generally! Everyone talks of empowerment and encouraging openness or dissent; but when it comes to doing it, people do it selectively or secretively. If you look at leadership forums, conferences, articles or development programs, everyone would swear by vision, farsightedness, focus, drive, dynamism, empathy etc. and shun autocracy, whims and fancies, politics and highhandedness. Notwithstanding this, blatant fact of today’s corporate world is that most managers do not lead by examples; but do it by exceptions!

Let me present my study of behavioral pattern of bosses of 2 major companies – North American and German. Top boss of the North American company is very friendly and factual. He believes in empowerment and encourages his team to discuss, debate and design business strategies. Everyone in team seems happy by his democratic behavior. However, team members spend lot of time in discussions, presentations; but he does not interfere. Net result is that decision making process is very slow in this company. At times, there is delayed or no decision. On many occasions, decisions by majority of team members have not been accurate. This company clearly suffers on pace of growth, compared to its potential and peers.

On other hand, boss of German company is clear headed, confident and a strong personality. What he dictates, his team has to dispose. Though decision making is very fast in this organization; but many of his decisions have brought the company on brink of serious crisis.

Look at few more examples – how Microsoft has been managed by Bill Gates as opposed to Steve Ballmer or the way Steve Jobs led Apple versus how Tim Cook is doing it now!

So, most companies live on throes of dilemma – what is the best and effective way to manage and drive the work or decisions at all levels!

Downside of being democratic

Everyone loves democracy and rightly so. But democratic style delves on diverse views and debates. So, it often inherits chaos, confusion and slow progress. Democracy and discipline do not go hand in hand. It encourages dissent, which is good and bad!

Leaders are required to be dynamic and decisive, and because of these very characteristics, they find democratic style of working very challenging and frustrating!

Being Autocratic is anti-people

Strong personalities are seldom people friendly. They would drive companies or even countries to strong growth and development; but they could also drive people nuts! They are divisive and can damage very culture of companies or create their own cult.

It is extremely important to understand the great paradox, which human psychology presents – if you are strong by character, you tend to be commanding and if you are mellowed, you tend to be congenial! People at large don’t like either!!

Being Authoritative is aesthetic!

What companies, communities, countries or families need is a right mix of strong and mild, sharp and savvy, commanding and caring, confidence and elegance!

The best form of working, supervision, management or leadership is to be “Authoritative with decency”. It is very crucial that decisiveness and decency together must descend in anything and everything, we do!

If we want to build in self or fellow-beings great characters with values and morals, infallible personalities and leaders, our focus must shift towards developing “authority with decency”. It then brings what every individual or organization would like to bat for:

  • Confidence and candor
  • Command and class
  • Energy and empathy
  • Empowerment and engagement
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2 Comments
  • Rudra
    Nov 12,2013 at 2:55 am

    Don’t know why but I would still put my money on the “North American Manager”, poor or no decision making can be a consequence of faulty team-members. So this, of-course, is a dilemmatic situation.

    Yes, democracy is essential and preferable, but I think you need a blend of both democracy (80%) and autocracy (20%) in a company. Look at Google’s or Facebook’s work culture for instance!!

    I personally have seen happier people in countries where Presidents are “Democratic” (or sort of)! And I think you too were largely a democratic leader as well, no?? 🙂

    But yes, in the end, agree with your sentence that it is “authority with decency” that can bring us close to an eternal success…

    Thanks!!

    • Nov 12,2013 at 11:29 am

      Very candid views! You have orchestrated your thoughts well.

      Yes, majority likes democracy; but then one pays a price for same. Autocracy has an element of authority or decisiveness; whereas democracy has decency built in. That’s why the post suggests the most practical option “authority or decisiveness with decency”.

      I am not sure whether I was truly democratic. I always believed that democracy works up to a certain mile. Therefore, I tend to lay down on table the best option for my team and encourage them to discuss this or find a better option than what was proposed. In that sense, I was predisposing and I do even now, them in a certain direction!

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