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Why the Authoritarian Style of Leadership Doesn’t Work

Recently I found myself thinking about what Daniel Goleman defines as the coercive style of leadership, the “Do-what-I-tell-you.” I was with a family member who took a business call and then finished it with something along the lines of, “You get it done or there are many other people who’re looking for your job.”

When I asked why they were so harsh, the explanation was simple, “It’s the only thing that works in Kenya.” You’ve got to be this way or your work doesn’t get done. The sad part was it was a sentiment I’ve heard a lot. Since Steve Jobs’ biography came out, leaders started mimicking his harsh authoritarian style, because it worked for him so they believed it would work for them.

However, recently I read an article about how the ‘stick’ method is definitely not the best approach to make people work. The moment you threaten someone, their fear section in the brain is activated and that lowers the activity of the neural circuit related to creative and peak cognitive thinking.

That explained why when you’re in a transition phase, it becomes really hard to get creative things done. You’re too panicky about your own survival that you can’t really apply yourself to creative work.

Of course, sharing this idea with authoritarian leaders could make them say, “We don’t want things to be done creatively. We just want things to be done. Pronto.”

Because if you’ve ever dealt with such leaders you’ll realize there is no arguing with them.

Sadly, lot of people seem to forget that employees are still human, even at work. They’re neither machines nor robots – not yet at least. No matter how rigid the company system is to make sure work is streamlined and the business is profitable, it’s run by humans whose motivations are as richly complex as the sunset sky in a polluted city. So leaders can’t play the card of, “They should be grateful to have such a secure job, and tolerate whatever I throw their way.”

Or at least, they can’t play that card forever.

So people need to stop looking up to the harsh side of Steve Jobs’ leadership style as a role model. Because contrary to popular belief, kindness goes a long way in both life and at work.

That’s today’s food for thought.

What are your opinions on this topic? Tweet me @ahechoes.

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Published inCareerLeadershipLife Lessons