The Autocratic Leader

1. Introduction to Autocratic Leadership

There are several effective leadership styles used to run organizations. The autocratic style basically tells employees what to do. This style is defined as excessively demanding, with one way of communication-from management to employee. Managers possess the power to coerce “subordinates” to accomplish the mission. Decision making comes from the leader(s) and the opinion or input of the employee is not considered. Nevertheless, autocratic leadership can be useful in certain situations or types of businesses. At times, management must utilize this type of leadership to achieve important goals.

2. Martha Stewart – An Autocratic Leader

Autocratic leadership is a management style that places pressure on employees to produce a product, service or image. This style is reminiscent of a dictatorship but in some businesses or military organizations, this type of leadership is necessary. Many employees have worked with an authoritarian manager and are used to it, require it, and even expect it. A good example of an autocratic leader is Martha Stewart who has built an empire based on her teaching techniques for simplicity and creativity in the home: cooking, crafts, finding the perfect housewares, etc.; all accomplished with great attention to detail.

Whether people have admired Martha Stewart or not, one cannot argue that she has remained careful, consistent and demanding of her employees. She’s very successful in nearly all of her endeavors, and often, if not always, has used an autocratic management style. It’s common knowledge that it’s her autocratic leadership style that has made her a success in nearly every form of media. Martha Stewart’s critics (who are many) argue that she would have found even more success had she not relied so heavily on the autocratic style of leadership.

3. Autocratic Leadership in the Group Project Setting

Another circumstance where autocratic leadership can be helpful is while working on group projects. When a group has no designated leader, a project can fail. When each group member expresses their own opinions and tenaciously holds to them, conflict is sure to arise. In this circumstance, project quality may suffer or literally come to a standstill. Groups need an autocratic leader who can hold to the decisions made by or for the group. The leader should seek for solutions to problems that arise in the project and then delegate the task to the members of the group. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, Inc., was a very successful autocratic leader. He was typically authoritative and made every major final decision for Apple.

Some argue that autocratic leadership can never lead to success – it’s controlling and solely based on the personality and style of the manager. But an effective autocratic leader can achieve great success in bringing a project to completion. During the first stages of developing an entrepreneurial organization, implementing an autocratic leadership style will enable the company to have and keep direction and momentum. A leader who is autocratic should apply his/her style wisely and with trepidation.

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