The word ‘autocracy’ has got something of a bad reputation. We tend to associate it with repressive dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. Why would you want to bring that into your workplace?
Of course, a business isn’t a country – it’s possible to have an autocratic management style without making your workforce feel miserable and underappreciated.
While the term ‘autocracy’ tends to be associated with the term ‘totalitarianism’, it’s possible to have one without the other. Having a single authority issuing commands needn’t mean that we need strive to control every facet of everyone’s life – it just means that you can cut through the discussion and make a decision, even if that decision goes against the advice of all of your senior management.
Autocratic management styles tend to be favoured by interim managers. These are vastly experienced and capable professionals, who come in to steady a ship for a limited period. They don’t have the time to build a decision-making structure – in fact, much of the time, they might find themselves contending with a structure that’s brought more problems than it’s solved. Interim recruitment agencies will tend to seek out professionals who’ve experience in managing in this way – and in getting results in the process. This way, they can be fairly sure of avoiding would-be despots with dysfunctional personalities.
So why might we prefer autocracy in business?
Among the chief advantages of autocracy in a business is that decisions don’t have to be made collectively. In theory, they can be made instantaneously. There’s no need to discuss things endlessly, or to collect feedback from lower down the organisation. Moreover, instructions can arrive at the bottom of the organisation, unadulterated by the layers of management through which they’ve had to pass.
No explanations needed
When you’re an autocrat, you don’t need to justify yourself to anyone. If your management style is less cerebral, and proceeds from gut feelings rather than rationalism, then you might find that this is a considerable advantage.
Clear Instructions Remove Ambiguity
Uncertainty can be a major source of stress for employees. For this reason, it can sometimes be preferable to work in an autocratic environment than a democratic one. Instructions are issued, and must be complied with – it’s that simple. The responsibility for those decisions rests with the autocrat.
If the workplace is staffed with workers who lack experience, then autocracy can be a great remedy. The competencies of the leader can replace those of the workforce – a lack of experience doesn’t count for as much when leadership is centralised.
Better Resilience in a Crisis
When disaster strikes, time is of the essence. The faster that the organisation can react, the better. For this reason, autocratic management styles can theoretically cope better during crises. This depends, of course, on the competence of the manager in question.