Throughout history, dictators have been given a bad rap. To get something done on a large scale, quickly and efficiently, a dictatorial leadership style is the way to go. When dictators make decisions, they are straightforward, efficient and effective. Quite often they bring order to chaos and promise something for everyone.
An examination of several of history’s famous dictators reveals a list of notable traits, which, when applied to corporate America, would, in the beginning, turn any struggling business into a success and move successful businesses to the next level.
Leadership Styles of the Dictator
First, an efficient dictator brings everyone in line with the “correct” way of thinking. Thousands of leadership gurus espouse the theory that good leaders with clear visions are able to motivate their followers effectively. Rather than waste a lot of time in rah-rah meetings, dictators just state what is going to happen and how it will get done. This is about as efficient as it gets.
Next, an effective dictator has the ability to foster creative thinking. While the employees directly surrounding the dictator may not utilize their creativity, those outside of the inner circle certainly will increase their efforts to please the leader.
By narrowing the capability of what can and can’t be done, those who disagree with the dictator’s policies will go to great lengths to hide actions which undermine the leader’s dictates.
Another characteristic of successful dictators is their ability to build morale. The “my way or the highway” mentality is catchy and people really thrive when they don’t have to think.
When dictators come to a meeting and tell everyone how things are going to be done without seeking input or allowing discussion, everyone leaves happy and motivated because they don’t have to worry about taking the blame if things don’t work out.
A final benefit of the dictatorial leadership style is that they just get stuff done. To overthrow a country, hire a dictator. To stamp out inefficiencies and get rid of deadwood in an organization, hire a dictator.
Through fear and intimidation, dictators motivate their charges to do things previously thought to be impossible. When results are all that matter, never mind that dictators sometimes operate in the gray areas—their track record of getting things done speaks for itself.
The Problem with Dictator Leadership
Now that I have your attention, I’ll tell you why dictatorial leadership will never really succeed. The same examination of history that uncovers dictators’ effective characteristics, also shows that dictatorships tend to implode spectacularly.
In a successful dictatorship there is only enough room for one ego and because of that, the inner circle will always be made up of “yes” people.
Employing a dictatorial style of leadership requires an incredibly high amount of narcissism and because of that, dictators can’t be bothered by conflicting advice, regardless of its quality. This is a root cause of the organization’s communication problems.
Because of the fear that runs through a dictator’s organization, many of the underlings begin to build their own “empires” with the organization to protect themselves.
These silos allow for a controlling of information which insulates the heads of the silos from personal attacks because of their perceived importance to the organization.
It is this “organizational insulation” that feeds communication problems and compounds them, crippling the organization’s ability to move quickly in response to problems.
Leadership styles, like dictatorships fail because they are more concerned with short term wins than long term success. Bad leadership is rife with egotism, paranoia and a desire to control everything within its grasp.
While some of the “good” things that occur—getting stuff done, higher morale, greater creativity—sound great from a leader’s perspective, they aren’t so good from the subordinate perspective.
In the end, dictatorships never end well for anyone; someone always ends up with a bloody nose and broken toys. If you are looking to build something that lasts and makes the world a better place, don’t look towards a dictatorship.
Instead, look at an inclusive style of leadership which seeks to shape those around you into something greater than they were before. In the words of John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”