Posted On25 Mar 2019
Democratic Boss vs Autocratic Boss - Finding the Golden Middle
Leadership is a talent, and the person that has it has the power to influence an entire group toward a common goal. There are many styles of leadership, and each has its right application based on the goals and the temperament of the group. Two of the most common leadership styles are autocratic and democratic. Let’s take a look at how these two styles differ.
Autocratic leadership—also known as centralized leadership, means it’s the leader who makes all the decisions. In the strictest sense, autocratic leaders do not consult their team. Once a decision has been made, they implement it and demand everyone’s obedience. Authoritarian leaders are more commonly known as ‘control freaks’ who want subordinates to simply do as they're told. They discourage questions and dissent and have little to no tolerance for mistakes.
When it works
Despite the negative picture, autocracy does have its benefits depending on circumstances. It is especially useful for simple or straightforward tasks or making sure that rules and regulations are strictly enforced. It can also be advantageous during emergencies when the group lacks skill and experience and is unable to make up its mind. In such circumstances, there needs to be a confident voice giving instructions, and with an autocratic leader, decisions can be made quickly.
When it fails
Most people are turned off by this kind of leadership, so it doesn’t work well when a leader must establish trust and cooperation among team members. It’s also less useful when the team needs to solve complex problems that could use input from somebody else. When it’s only the voice of the boss that matters, over time, employees may dissociate themselves from work, and show little initiative. They may even start to despise the autocratic leader for being too controlling, and this can spell disaster for the team. High employee turnover is typical in many autocratic leadership setups.
How to make autocratic leadership work
Even when you’re the only one in charge of decisions, it’s still possible to create a healthy working environment. When applying this leadership style, it’s important to let your employees know what your behavior will be. You also need to explain why you will be seeking exact results and when you’ll be holding them accountable for any mistake. Likewise, you must also inform you subordinates how your autocratic lidership style benefits them. The important thing to keep in mind is that you are micro-managing all the decisions because you believe it increases your team’s chances at success. This is a style of leadership that helps ensure your team stays focused on the goals so, in the end, everyone may reap the benefits.
Democratic leadership is a type of decentralized leadership where the leader shares decision-making and other management responsibilities with subordinates. Democratic leaders are open to suggestions and encourage open communication. Although they may involve others in the leadership process, they still carry the burden of the final decision rests with them. It is also their task to ensure that the desired outcomes are achieved by the group’s decision.
When it works
Cooperation and camaraderie among team members are best achieved using a democratic-style leadership. By involving employees in the decision making, they start to feel more valued and thus are inclined to be more engaged, productive and motivated at work. Democratic leadership also permits employees to develop their own leadership skills, which helps ease the burden of decision-making.
When it fails
When decisions need to be made quickly, democratic leadership isn’t necessarily helpful or practical. Requiring employees to contribute takes time and slows the decision-making process, and this can be a hindrance in times of crisis. Likewise, if team members lack the knowledge and expertise necessary to make sound decisions, any input and suggestion may end up being detrimental to the team and its goals.
How to make democratic leadership work
Because other people are involved in making decisions for the group, accurate and timely communication is key to the democratic leadership style. The leader needs to be able to quickly and promptly disseminate and collect crucial information to all members. Thus, the network of communication must be highly efficient, and this can be done by understanding the group hierarchy, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each member, and delegating specific responsibilities to subgroups. Democratic leaders must be well-organized to fulfill their own obligations as well as the team’s.
To ensure your democratic group operates smoothly, you need to implement concrete guidelines for making suggestions. Develop a protocol for employees that will inform them about the types of decisions that will be requiring their input, and what situations will require their opinion.
The balancing act
As mentioned, each style of leadership has its uses, so it would be a mistake to be autocratic all the time, because you’ll end up alienating your employees. Likewise, it would be just as wrong to uphold a democratic point of view in all your decision-making, because when disagreements arise, nothing might ever get done.
The important thing to remember is that there is not one single perfect style of leadership. You may believe that one method is better than the other, and you may be right, but there are many situations and applications where a different style could yield better benefits. Good leaders are able to adjust their leadership style to the situation at hand, while also taking into consideration the maturity of the team, the work environment, and the company culture, among other aspects of work. The ultimate goal is to get the job done, but you also need to consider the views and needs of team members, because you need them to be on-board with your decision. Use the best leadership style for the situation and modify as needed.
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