Of the various types of leadership or leadership styles, authoritarian management style is the oldest, most hotly debated, the most effective and the most ineffective. It is quite interesting actually as no other style of management or leadership has so divided an opinion. There are many who just love this type of leadership, obviously when they get to exercise the powers, and then there are many who detest this style, mostly by those who are at the receiving end.
What is Authoritarian Management Style?
Authoritarian management style stems from authoritarian leadership and that has roots in authoritarianism or autocracy. It is the oldest form of leadership and has been around since the ancient days. Every part of the world has been ruled by authoritarian royal families or autocratic military leaders at some point in time.
Authoritarianism is a system of governance or rule where only one man or woman or a group of men and women will have absolute power. They would have the authority to do whatever they want and no one else will have any say in governance or matters of rule. The laws or policies will be made by these omnipotent people and the execution of such laws or otherwise will also be overseen by the omnipotent.
In modern context or in the corporate world, authoritarianism is not absolute in the traditional sense. Every leader or manager practicing this type of management or leadership will have to adhere to the laws of the land and the company policies will have to be adhered to which can be put to test and be up for review, but the manager or leader will not welcome any opinion of others and he or she alone would reserve all power to make decisions.
While everyone contributes in a team, the only person that matters in an authoritarian management style is the manager or leader. Whatever he or she wants must be done, whichever way he or she desires and no one has any veto other than him or her.
Typical Authoritarian Management Style
No leader, manager or even the owner of a business can practice absolute authoritarianism. There are laws, company policies and humane practices which one must adhere to. Hence, authoritarian management style in present context is not as heinous as it may sound. People associate authoritarianism with cruel rulers and inhumane leaders which is not the case today.
A typical authoritarian management style in present context is the manager or leader having only a fixed approach. There would be absolute inflexibility, the popular ‘my way or the highway’ attitude, team members or employees would not be asked about their opinions even on matters that concern them, free flowing information may be curtailed, discussions would be utopian and even if discussions do happen, they don’t really have a bearing on the eventual decision which is the sole premise of the omnipotent manager or leader. Authoritarian management style often uses a bureaucratic system or hierarchy to execute its power.
Advantages of Authoritarian Management Style
The biggest advantage of this management style is that things get done. Steve Jobs got things done. He was an authoritarian or autocratic leader. You had to play the game by his rules and if he approved your rules. There was no place for disagreement or dissent, at least in his team or when one reported to him directly. He was a tough taskmaster, never cared much about anything but the work and put the products and their fate above everything else.
When there are too many people with too many powers and too many opinions, things don’t get done. Work becomes a never ending discussion and everyone keeps wasting time, effort, resources and money without really achieving anything tangible. In an authoritarian management style, there is no room for such waste. The leader decides and everyone falls in line. Whatever opinion or idea one may have doesn’t matter.
Disadvantages of Authoritarian Management Style
The biggest disadvantage of this management style is the million dollar question: what if the leader is wrong! Leaders or managers cannot be right all the time. Their way of doing things may not be the best for everyone or for the company. They may be headed down the wrong path and yet no one has the power to undo that or to prevent the adverse from happening because the only person with the power to decide that is the leader or manager. Hence, a company can very well run into its doom if authoritarian management style goes wrong.
Today, everyone is accustomed with democratic principles. No one expects not to be heard, not to be taken seriously and to be just handed decisions to follow through. Hence, authoritarian management style doesn’t go down very well with employees. People love working in open environments where every person is valued. In authoritarianism, others don’t matter much, not even remotely as much as the autocratic leader, manager or chief executive does.