Management Styles - Authoritarian

by: Lincoln E. Bittner

To be an effective manager, you need to understand the basic styles of management, and when they are or are not appropriate. What follows is one of the most common styles of management, and when it is appropriate to use each management style. None are always good; none are always bad. However, some are generally preferable, and each must be used in the proper context. In this article, we will discuss authoritarian management, the one most commonly used by inexperienced managers.

Mistaken Authority

Many newly promoted managers believe a manager makes every decision without counsel or buy-in from others and must be obeyed without question. The new manager's demeanor changes almost overnight from a team player to one of total domination. He presumes he was promoted because his abilities and wisdom are far above those of everyone else, and that only he can make choices. His inexperience causes him to adapt an authoritarian management style. Other new managers take on an authoritarian management approach to mask insecurity in their new role. An authoritarian manager is someone who takes complete control of the operation without taking advantage of the skills, experience and knowledge of those around him. This person sends a message through his actions that his decisions are the only ones that matter.

The results of this type of management are devastating to an organization. These actions will result in loss of production, poor morale, and sometimes will result in destructive behavior and employee rebellion. It is important for new managers to learn to work as a team and for senior management to provide training to new managers so they can start out correctly, rather than needing correction later on.

Consider the following story, and what you would have done.

Jan had been with the company for many years. She had worked in many departments, and could always be counted on to take good care of her customers. She worked hard, and demonstrated to her managers she was a capable and loyal employee.

As time went on, she was given assignments that tested her supervisory abilities. She was effective at performing these duties, and was finally promoted to a supervisory position. The employees who worked with Jan enjoyed her enthusiasm, and felt that they enjoyed her trust and confidence in them. They believed that because she had come from their ranks, she would understand their jobs.

Jan was promoted to the position of supervisor. This made Jan very proud, and she set about formulating a plan that would allow her to demonstrate to management they had made the right decision. She felt that if she demonstrated to management that she was good at this position, her rise to the top would be rapid and successful.

Jan began her new position by meeting with each person in the department to review what they did, and how they accomplished their duties. During these sessions she kept notes, and instructed each employee as to the changes she wanted implemented in their roles. When employees attempted to discuss the changes, she reminded them she was in charge and that “some changes needed to take place.” Because of Jan’s decisions, output dropped, and absenteeism rose. Efforts to retrain Jan were unsuccessful. She seemed unable to understand the true role of manager as a leader, not a boss.

When it became clear Jan had not lived up to her promise, she was fired because her relationship with those she had been assigned to lead had so deteriorated she would not have been able to return to working with them as a member of a team. This made demotion impossible.

When to use this style

When is it proper to use an authoritarian form of management, and what is the best way to proceed? It is acceptable to use an authoritarian management style when the safety of your coworkers is at risk, and there is no time to take a survey of opinions. In this case, you as a member of management are responsible for the safety and welfare of those around you. When these situations arise that you must take swift and decisive action, you must do it properly. There are also times when a decision simply must be made very quickly. It's important, when this happens, to later assure the staff there wasn't time to seek their imput, but that under normal circumstances their opinions are valued.

There will be occasions where those around you may not recognize the need for your decisions, and you may not have time to discuss your decisions with them. You may raise your voice to be heard, but the tone and inflection of your voice must be without emotion. Remember, it is your responsibility to see that everyone is safe, and your actions must clearly demonstrate your calmness and concern for them.

Under ordinary situations, it is generally wise to try to understand the needs of the staff and to value their expertise in their own jobs. No one knows a job better than the person doing it, and when that person feels trusted and valued as an expert, he will generally rise to the reputation you create for him. A person who is often told, "You are so good at figuring out the most efficient way to do this" will work even harder at becoming more efficient. People will do almost anything to live up or down to expectations. When it is necessary to step in, they are more likely to accept counsel from someone if they know that person respects them. It does not undermine a boss to take advice from someone on his staff; in fact, it elevates him because he gains the respect of those he leads.

Learn more about management styles.

Do you need help teaching your staff to manage effectively? TML business services can help you set up training or can carry out that training for you. We offer management consulting and management coaching as well as formal management training. Contact TML Business Services.

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