Application of Autocratic Leadership Style Based on Nature of Workforce
The theoretical base of autocratic leadership style rests in Douglas McGregor’s Theory X. Theory X holds that workers are inherently lazy and naturally dislike working. In cases such as these, management needs to supervise the workers and monitor activities strictly to ensure that workers do not avoid completing their duties. It recommends a hierarchical structure with narrow span of control at all levels for this purpose.
An autocratic leadership style where the leader has complete authority and reserves the right to make decisions, and where the followers obey the instructions of the leader without question, remains ideally suited for workers with a Theory X type of orientation.
McGregor’s Theory Y runs opposite to Theory X. This theory states that ambitious and self-motivated workers enjoy doing their job. They like to seek and accept responsibility and apply their creativity in solving work-related problems, but most companies hesitate to let workers apply their skills, and under-utilize their workforce.
An autocratic leadership style is the worst possible leadership type, especially for employees with a Theory Y type of orientation. Most white-collar workers and professionals fall into this category.
Based on the nature of the workforce, examples of when to use autocratic leadership style remains most suitable during the following situations:
- People with low motivation or achievement-orientation tend to work as little as possible, and when working in a group, tend to pass on work to others. An autocratic leader who assigns clear and precise responsibilities ensures that such workers work their share.
- Many people working in a group lack the inclination to understand the intricacies of the project, and feel reluctant to take up responsibility if things go wrong. Collective or participative decision-making in such cases tends to delay progress. An autocratic leader empowered to make decisions and assign tasks and deliverables to the team members helps to keep the project on schedule.
- When the project team consists entirely of new or inexperienced team members unfamiliar with their role, autocratic leadership remains the best approach to get work done without wasting time for the team members or to learn by trial and error.
- Autocratic Leadership styles suit most blue-collared workers, especially those doing unskilled jobs who lack the qualifications, skills, or talent to respond to any participative leadership styles, or have low motivation, or require achievement acceptance to perform.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Martin Adámek