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Authoritative and Authoritarian Leadership: What’s the Difference?

Authoritative and Authoritarian Leadership: What’s the Difference? cover

Leadership is a term discussed extensively, especially after a team succeeds in a particular field. Be it launching a product, sending a mission to Mars, or winning a World Cup in any sport, people tend to focus on the team's head and on the qualities that motivate the team to believe in the common goal and invest their energies into making that dream a reality. Two essential leadership styles are authoritative and authoritarian.

So, what is leadership? Simply put, an individual can align the collective efforts of a team towards a shared goal. A leader instills in his team the self-belief that makes them more excellent than the sum of their parts.

In this piece, we shall discuss the different leadership styles, emphasizing authoritative and authoritarian leadership.

Why is Leadership Necessary?

The fact that leadership is necessary is beyond doubt, but why is it so?

Leaders, with their vision, have to be able to motivate their team to perform activities essential to complete the task with efficiency.

Performing tasks with efficiency will make companies to be successful and win the competition.

A team leader paves the way for the members of his team.. Photographer: Jason Goodman | Source: Unsplash

It is essential that a leader guides the team and provides feedback to ensure that the end goal is always in sight. Temporary setbacks do not damp the spirit of true leaders, and they always find a way to solve problems and move forward.

Decision-making is another crucial aspect of good leadership. Leaders can make firm decisions in the interest of their team and the organization to understand the underlying implications.

They provide an environment where the team can grow and experiment, offering excellent learning opportunities for everyone. Leaders know that one can achieve organizational goals without compromising on integrity, ethics, and employee satisfaction.

Elements of Effective Leadership

A true leader is selfless and believes in putting his team first. Taking a step back and allowing your team to bask in the spotlight is one of the many qualities of a leader.

Work is a team sport, and you must focus on building your team and making sure they get recognized for their efforts. This is one way to motivate a team.

Effective leadership builds adaptability and resilience to change. The people who work under you should be excited about change and not fear it. Once a team is in place, a leader must give it sufficient autonomy to work freely.

Ted talk by Simon Sinek on Leadership
Ted talk by Simon Sinek on Leadership where he talks about how good leaders make you feel safe.

It can be tempting to micromanage, but this will harm team morale. It is vital to nurture people for leadership positions by giving them ownership of crucial projects. This will help develop their skills and temperament that will help the organization in the long run.

An atmosphere of camaraderie and collaboration must exist in the team to give their best every time.

Follow the words of the legendary Jack Welch

" People First, Strategy Second."

Empowering your teams will automatically lead to better processes and services. Although maintaining transparency is essential, it must come from the top, and it is good to remind oneself that there is no such thing as too much communication.

Reward your team every once by celebrating small successes, milestones, and occasions like birthdays. Remember to have fun as it keeps the team energized.

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Lastly and most importantly, Leaders have to be good listeners, which will open them to new ideas and encourage the team. Now we move to discuss different styles of leadership.

Different Styles of Leadership

Leadership comes in many forms, and there is no single correct way to lead a team. Here are some major leadership styles:

  • Authoritative Leadership
  • Authoritarian Leadership
  • Strategic Leadership
  • Transformational Leadership
  • Transactional Leadership
  • Bureaucratic Leadership
  • Charismatic Leadership
  • Coaching Leadership
  • Democratic Leadership
  • Laissez-Faire Leadership

While there are many leadership styles to choose from, our article focuses on two of the most popular leadership styles: Authoritative and Authoritarian Leadership.

Authoritative Leadership – Definition and Characteristics

Authoritative leadership is one where the manager has complete control. He defines the goals & objectives, sets the processes in place, and sees that the targets are achieved with minimal input from the team.

They drive organizations towards common goals, coaching their employees along the way.

There are various types of authoritative leadership, such as intimidation, where the managers hold their team to very high standards. Secondly, there is the reflection type of authoritative leadership, where there is an onus on experience and intuition. Managers guide the team based on knowledge gained in the past.

Authoritative leaders are also adaptive. They modify their approach based on the employees and the situation. Some reactive authoritative leaders overcompensate trying to prove themselves.

How to Establish Authoritative Leadership.

The first step to becoming an authoritative leader is to identify your North Star. Once you define your purpose and assess your strengths and weaknesses, you will better define your end goals.

The next step is to set parameters for ownership, accountability, and the scope of work. If these parameters do not align with those of the overall organization, they need to be looked at before setting to accomplish objectives.

Remember that you are part of a team and engage with your employees to understand how to help them perform better.

When resolving conflicts or pointing out flaws, it always helps to explain your rationale and identify the root cause of the problem.

Lastly, it always helps to reflect on how situations could have been handled better, especially employee engagement.

Benefits of Authoritative Leadership:

As the rules of engagement are already in place, teams with authoritative leadership have fewer mistakes. They are more efficient and learn from the experience of their managers.

With processes spelled out, teams can focus on innovation and completion of work, boosting their productivity.

Authoritative leadership helps in fast decision-making and is effective in high-risk situations with little room for error. Leaders can guide their team members in detail to avoid injuries.

Authoritarian Leadership – Definition and Characteristics

Authoritarian leadership works best in situations that need immediate decisions or error-free outcomes. These leaders supervise their teams' daily tasks.

The teams under authoritarian leaders are typically limited in terms of skills and experience. When misused, authoritarian leadership leads to abuse of power.

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Traits of Authoritarian Leadership

An authoritarian leader possesses immense self-confidence, and this ensures sound judgment in crunch situations. He must be motivated, and this has to rub off on his team as well.

Clear communication is necessary to outline realistic strategies, processes, and end goals while delegating tasks. This will ensure high performance as the team will not spend time deciding what to do and how to do it.

The leaders are dependable as they stick to rules and ensure high efficiency from their teams.

Pros of Authoritarian Leadership

Authoritarian leadership leads to effective delegation of tasks, and they can quickly reassign them to ensure that the work continues smoothly. All the required information is provided to the team, and in case of queries, they can directly reach out to the manager, which simplifies communication.

The pressure and accountability of decision-making lie solely with the manager, which reduces stress on team members who can focus on individual responsibilities.

Authoritarian leadership reduces the number of power centers and causes fewer ego clashes when arriving at decisions.

Cons of Authoritarian Leadership

Leaders who tend to move towards complete control of their teams closely monitor the tasks and progress of their subordinates. They like to correct their team members every step, resulting in demotivation, lackluster, and below-par performance.

Although authoritarian leadership reduces stress for the team, it creates heavy dependence, and no work is done in the absence of directions from the manager.

The team members tend to feel less valued as the manager grabs the highlight of team successes and sometimes failures. The team does not contribute in terms of ideas and opinions.

Authoritarian leaders are more likely to keep all critical information, thereby creating distrust in the team.

Difference Between Authoritative and Authoritarian Leadership

Difference Between Authoritative and Authoritarian Leadership
The two leadership styles might sound similar, but there are differences.

Authoritative Leadership vs. Authoritarian Leadership. They sound similar to the casual observer, but quite a few differences exist between the two styles, and we shall examine those here.

Long-term vs. Short-term goals

The authoritarian style is perfect for dire situations on the battlefield where there is hardly any time to think. But one does not face these situations daily, and this is where the authoritative style of leadership is useful.

Authoritative leaders best demonstrate their skills when accomplishing long-term goals, such as turning around a company's fortunes. Authoritarian leadership may yield short-term results, but it can lead to resentment amongst the team members.

My way or highway vs. Come with me.

Authoritative leadership defines the ends but leaves the means to the team. In contrast, authoritarian leadership determines both the ends and the means.

Authoritative leaders have a 'Come with Me' attitude, which is in sharp contrast to the authoritarian leader's “My way or highway” approach.

For instance. The two styles of leadership described above have stimulating effects on the upbringing of children as well. Children with authoritative parents can easily discern the difference between right and wrong. They have outgoing personalities and are confident about themselves.

In contrast, children who have grown up with authoritarian parents are always in a shell and tend to be afraid of experimenting and making mistakes. They have always listened to their parents' nag and complain about them and, hence, lack confidence due to no encouragement during their formative years.

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These children also do not develop their worldview as their parents tightly control every aspect of their lives.

Forward-looking approach vs. Backward-looking approach

An authoritative leader understands and acknowledges the fact that he is not the smartest person in the room. In contrast, an authoritarian leader believes that he is ahead of his peers and needs no advice.

Authoritative leaders explain what needs to be done and the thought process behind it; however, an authoritarian leader expects his orders to be followed with no questions asked.

Authoritative leadership is forward-looking in its approach, but authoritarian leadership focuses on past failures and is on the lookout for a scapegoat. Authoritarian leaders are best suited to carry out unpleasant tasks such as letting heads roll when the organization faces a crisis.

Difference Based on the Three Motivators

Three motivators by Daniel Pink
An important measure to judge leadership style is the three motivators.

According to best-selling author Daniel Pink, three universal motivators are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Although authoritarian leadership has a purpose, this style can get stifling, and people get disenchanted with it quickly.

On the other hand, authoritative leadership is in sync with all three motivators. An authoritative leader is more open to sharing his vision with the team. Authoritarian leadership demands compliance to rules at all costs, and this is helpful in a rigid and hierarchial environment with unmotivated workers.

Authoritative leadership provides opportunities for employees to bring new ideas to the table and innovate where possible. An authoritarian leader sees success as a direct result of his work, but an authoritative leader knows success results from a team effort.

In Closing: Authoritative and Authoritarian Leadership

While the focus is on the results, irrespective of the leadership style being followed, the debate on the authoritative versus the authoritarian approaches to leadership is endless.

It becomes imperative to realize that each leadership style has its place in the world we live in. A skilled leader can also adopt a mix of the authoritative and the authoritarian styles to yield the best possible results depending on the situation.

Lastly, you must understand your team members, their strengths, and their weaknesses to tackle any problematic situations.

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