Compare Democratic and Autocratic Leadership

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Leadership, a crucial element in business, can be defined as “a process of influencing the activities of an organized group toward goal achievement” (Yukl, 2013, p.76). There are four main types of leadership styles: the autocratic, democratic, paternalistic and laissez-faire leadership styles. Daft (2008, p.44) suggests that “the extent to which leaders should be boss-centered or subordinate-centered partly depends on organizational circumstances.” After taking into account the organizational circumstances, companies should be able to select suitable types of leadership styles. Therefore, it is worth arguing that the democratic style of leadership should be applied more frequently than the autocratic style of leadership, for example, in companies adopting flat organizational structure. Power division, followers’ motivation and decision quality in both styles are compared in the following essay. Before proceeding to the comparison and contrast, it is necessary to firstly explain the autocratic and the democratic leadership styles. In autocratic leadership style, leaders have full authority over others in making decisions. (Salem, 2013) Not only do leaders monitor the efforts of the followers, but often they track followers’ schedules closely as well. (Leadership-toolbox, 2008) On the other hand, democratic leaders share authority with followers and pay attention to participation in order to complete the allocated tasks. (Salem, 2013) Participation can be persuasive and consultative, which implies “facilitating the conversation, encouraging followers to share ideas, and then synthesizing all the available information into the best possible decision.” (Leadership-toolbox, 2008) Companies in flat organizational structure which has relatively few layers of management can obviously work better if applying the democratic leadership style. Turning to the section of power, the level of power division in the two leadership styles differs. Regarding to the autocratic leadership style, as the leaders retain authoritarian control over all decisions, followers may not have a single chance to impact the outcomes. “They learn that it is safer to suppress their innate capacity and wait instead for commands.” (Cloke and Goldsmith, 2002) In democratic companies, however, humanity is usually adhered during the operation. (Semler, 1989) Democratic leaders normally uphold the right of followers to affect decisions by providing opportunities for them to voice their concerns. Companies in flat organizational structure with “a wide span of control and a chain of command,” (Nicholas, 2009, p.325) can better guarantee the right of followers through face-to-face or indirect interaction. Ricardo Semler (1989), CEO of SEMCO, a manufacturing company in Brazil which advocates democratic leadership style and adopts flat organizational structure, agrees that workers should be treated as competent and trustworthy adults and should be offered freedom to question and express their opinions. Various ways of distributing power cause wide ranges of consequences, among which the motivation of followers tends to be the most notable part. Martin Evans (1970, p.277-298) and Robert House (1971, p.312-339) have developed an abstract theory of leadership called path-goal theory. It reveals that leadership behavior has considerable impact on followers’ motivation, gratification and efforts. In autocratic leadership, it is hard for leaders to balance the authority with the morale of followers. Autocracy can typically lead to dissatisfaction and misunderstanding about decisions as well as a high level of administration. Besides, “too much direct scrutiny and too heavy pressure can squelch the upward mobility of followers.” (Yukl, 2013, p.89) On the contrary, democracy helps followers to build confidence and to reduce stress in jobs. If a company which implements flat organizational structure leads democratically, followers can be fully engaged and be treated with...
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