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Democratic vs. Autocratic Leadership Styles Essay

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Updated: Jul 4th, 2021

Introduction

Leadership is one of the fundamental components of any society as it ensures its evolution. It has always been popular, and there have always been multiple attempts to understand the nature of this phenomenon, its core components, and features that differentiate true leaders from other people. Today, the given concept is an integral part of multiple disciplines, for example, management, as its improved understanding contributes to the generation of the ability to guide people, guarantee their high-performance levels, and accomplish topical goals.

Due to the attention to this idea, there is also a solid theoretical background that offers definitions of various leadership styles and peculiarities of their application to many situations. The paper is devoted to the comparison of two approaches, which are democratic and autocratic models, that are often taken as opposite to each other.

Definitions

A reason for the selection of these two approaches to managing people is that they can be considered one of the oldest styles that were used by people in ancient times and remain topical today. Thus, democratic leadership is a model that presupposes a decision-making model based on the contribution of every team member (Northouse, 2018). It means that individuals have the right to outline their position regarding a discussed issue, offer their perspectives and possible solutions.

All persons have an equal say and can engage in debates regarding the final decision and its character. However, the leader remains responsible for the selection of the best possible strategy among the offered ones, and he/she has to accept responsibility for outcomes that will be stipulated by it. For this reason, he/she is interested in the in-depth discussion of the situation and all possible factors that might affect it to formulate the most suitable approach.

As for autocratic leadership, it remains in direct opposition to the democratic one. The main idea of this approach is that a leader is the only person who makes decisions (Chestnut, 2017). Other people who might be affected by these solutions and outcomes are not taken into account as their level of authority is too low to influence a leader. The given model also presupposes that there can be specialists, members of the community, or other persons who report and provide information about a specific concern, or a problem that should be resolved (Harmon, n.d.).

However, this information is used only by an autocratic leader to make the final conclusion and offer the course of action that seems acceptable to him/her. The given form of leadership is one of the oldest ones, as there are multiple examples for the history when power was concentrated in the hands of one person who ruled countries, or giant empires, in autocratic style and using his/her own decisions as to the basis for the future development.

Strengths

The evaluation of these leadership styles can be performed via the comparison of strengths and weaknesses to understand the basic features of these approaches and situations when they can be useful or fail to work in the desired ways. Thus, one of the main advantages of the democratic model is that all individuals who are affected by a certain situation have an opportunity to outline their views and participate in decision-making (Gordon, 2017).

It guarantees that there will be multiple perspectives on the same question and vigorous debates about it. The given diversity is a key to effectiveness as one person can forget or misunderstand some data portions or simply disregard them. However, in group discussions, the probability of such flaws decreases, and more practical methods can be created. Moreover, the use of this style of leadership guarantees that all people will have similar satisfaction levels because of their equal contribution to the resolution of a certain problem. In such a way, a leader can offer a set of possible options, and a team can engage in its discussion to achieve the best possible outcomes.

As for autocratic leadership, it also has its advantages that precondition its extensive use in different situations. First of all, the adherence to this model increases the speed of decision making significantly as there is no need for additional discussions or participation of the whole team. On the contrary, a leader who bears responsibility for outcomes decides whether to employ a certain strategy or not on his/her own (Northouse, 2018).

It becomes especially important in crisis situations when fast and effective measures are fundamental for the improvement of the current state and avoidance of deterioration of the aspect. Another strength of this model is a significant reduction of stress levels among other members of a team or community (Northouse, 2018). Accepting the fact that they do not play a vital role in decision making, individuals might relax and focus on other activities, which are essential for the development of the company at the moment.

Weaknesses

However, as far as there are no perfect approaches, both mentioned perspectives have their weaknesses that should be mentioned and analyzed for a valid comparison. Thus, as for the democratic method, its main drawback is the low speed of decision-making. Contrary to the autocratic model, this one presupposes a high need for time because of debates and discussions of specific approaches or solutions by all individuals belonging to a collective or community.

Additionally, because of the existence of different views on the same issue, there is a risk that true consensus will never be reached, and a leader might face a challenging dilemma because of the absence of one universal method to deal with the current situation (Sandling, 2015). Under these conditions, the existence of multiple available options becomes a serious drawback as it complicates decision-making and results in the inability to move forward and continuous disputes regarding the planned actions or interventions.

As for the autocratic model, its most significant drawback comes from the definition of this style. The fact is that this paradigm presupposes that all solutions are made by one person, which means that it becomes highly dependent on a leader (Sandling, 2015). He/she should possess qualities that can guarantee correct and effective decision-making. It also presupposes the critical analysis of the current situation, all possible outcomes, and understanding of the nature of viable strategy along with its consequences. If a leader fails to perform the correct investigation of the problematic affair, a company, unit, or community might fail to succeed and stop its development.

There is no pool of available solutions peculiar to the democratic style as other individuals do not participate in decision-making and do not have a chance to offer their vision of the situation. Additionally, the leader suffers from additional stress that comes from the high responsibility for all accepted decisions, and he/she might start to experience hesitations (Bevoc, 2016). Finally, there is also a chance for the abuse of power as it is concentrated in the hands of one person, and he/she can use it for various purposes.

Examples

Speaking about the selected forms of leadership, some examples in various spheres can be offered to demonstrate how these models are employed in practice. For instance, Sundar Pichai, the current CEO of Google, can be considered an outstanding democratic leader who managed to achieve great success and create the basis for the future evolution of this giant corporation (Rosenberg, 2019).

The fact is that at the moment, the company boasts its democratic approach as all members of the collective take part in the discussion of various projects and can offer their vision of the current situation. Additionally, top managers often consult with senior ones or other workers to find out some innovative interventions or consider all possible solutions to the existing problem (Rosenberg, 2019). Using this very style of leadership, Pichai stimulated the future rise of Google and its ability to remain one of the leaders in the sphere of the Internet and technologies.

As for the example of an autocratic leader, many significant monarchs of the past or heads of the state can be used. For instance, Lincoln can be taken as a President who had to act in this way to solve problems that were relevant at that period of time (Phillips, 1993). For instance, Emancipation Proclamation was taken as an unconstitutional act by some other representatives of power in the USA, and it was doubted (Phillips, 1993).

However, accepting the current need, the President acted on his own and disregarded other perspectives on this question. During the war, he also made some tyrannical decisions that were taken as disputable at that moment (Phillips, 1993). However, these actions created the basis for the future evolution of democracy in the state and its survival. Adhering to this very model, Lincoln achieved various goals that were central, which means that the use of the autocratic leadership style can be justified.

Effective Model Today

Today, the problem of leadership and the choice of the appropriate approach remains topical as there are various situations that demand intervention and effective decision-making. Considering the peculiarities of people’s mentalities, and the dominance of humanistic values, the democratic leadership style seems the preferable option. First, it will guarantee a high level of satisfaction among workers because of their ability to impact decision-making and play a certain role in the evolution of the company (Northouse, 2018). Second, the use of this model guarantees that there will be multiple perspectives on the same situation, which is critical for the modern environment that is characterized by the increased sophistication and existence of many factors that should be considered (Northouse, 2018). Finally, democratic leaders might help to create a positive climate at the workplace and increase performance levels, which is another desired outcome.

Conclusion

Altogether, leadership is an important element of the contemporary world that should be given significant attention because of its positive impact on various organizations or communities. The autocratic and democratic styles are some of the oldest modes that are used by individuals to manage their followers. Being different, these approaches have their advantages and disadvantages that might precondition the sphere of their use and results that should be achieved. There are examples proving that these two perspectives on working with people can be effective and help to solve problems.

References

Bevoc, L. (2016). Leadership style, toxic leadership, micromanagement, and organizational culture. New York, NY: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Chestnut, B. (2017). The 9 types of leadership: Mastering the art of people in the 21st century. New York, NY: Post Hill Press.

Gordon, J. (2017). The power of positive leadership: How and why positive leaders transform teams and organizations and change the world. New York, NY: Wiley.

Harmon, E. (n.d.). . Web.

Northouse, P. (2018). Leadership: Theory and practice (8th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Phillips, D. (1993). Lincoln on leadership: Executive strategies for tough times. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.

Rosenberg, E. (2019). Web.

Sandling, J. (2015). Leading with style: The comprehensive guide to leadership styles. New York, NY: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Democratic vs. Autocratic Leadership Styles." July 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/democratic-vs-autocratic-leadership-styles/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Democratic vs. Autocratic Leadership Styles'. 4 July.

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