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The pros & cons of an autocratic management style

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Last week we had the first entry in our Management Style blog series. During this series, we will look at the 7 major styles of management, beginning today with one of the more extreme styles: autocratic.

As the name suggests, an autocratic manager is someone who makes decisions unilaterally, without consulting the people they manage. It may sound unreasonable or controlling, but the truth is, like all styles of management, autocracy can be effective when used correctly.

When is it Effective?

One of the most important aspects of understanding the different management styles is knowing when to apply them. In the case of autocratic management, this is best reserved for projects that have no room for mistakes. This includes work that is dangerous, high-pressure, or needs to be completed urgently.

Depending on the line of work, mistakes can be quite risky for both the employees involved and the end consumer. Working on an oil rig, nursing, or preparing food are three very different roles, but all have very little room for error. For positions like these, adopting the autocratic style helps to ensure the safety of both employees and consumers by having workers follow a strict set of instructions, which reduces the likelihood of mistakes and injuries. Similarly, the autocratic style can help get work accomplished before a deadline, minimising the amount of time wasted by enforcing a clear set of instructions and targets from the get-go.  

What are the Pros & Cons?

An interesting note about the autocratic style is that, despite its harsh outward appearance, it is a style that has the wellbeing of the employee at its core. One of the main reasons it is used in so many areas, from the military to the construction sector, is to ensure the physical safety of employees and consumers. And despite the fact that the autocratic style is best used in high-pressure situations, one of its biggest Pros is that it can take a lot of pressure off the workers themselves. Employees don’t have to worry about the decision-making process, whether or not the current course of action is the best, or even if the project is a success. As long as they follow the instructions, they’ve done their job. 

The flipside of this is of course that employees do not get to contribute their own ideas, or have any say in their own schedule. Although it is often in their best interests, the autocratic style can make people feel insignificant or powerless, and can lead to resentment over time. For this reason, it is usually best reserved for short-term projects, or you will see high-levels of employee turnover. In the hospitality sector for example, where the autocratic style can help ensure the quality of service provided to guests, had a turnover rate of about 72% in 2015.

Whether you’re working a short-term campaign or in an industry that can’t afford mistakes, the autocratic style can be one of the quickest, safest, and most efficient methods out there. But its inflexibility and hard-line approach can lower morale, stifle creativity and innovation, and drive employees away. It may not always be the most popular, but the autocratic style can be incredibly effective if you know how to use it.

Want to be an autocrat?

The world needs autocratic managers, so if you’re ready to make decisions and take responsibility, then see what jobs we have available today. 

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