Eyes On: Leadership Styles Part Four- Authoritative Leadership

Authoritative leadership is arguably the most conventional model of leadership out there; however, times are changing- so let's put it under the microscope and see how it holds up in the context of modern business.

Today we’re going to continue our series of content that takes an in-depth look at some of the most popular styles of management out there, as well as a list of some of the pros and cons that come with them. It’s very rare that one single style of leadership will successfully empower all of your staff without some form of detriment - to yourself, a small number of staff, the executive team, whomever- and that’s why it’s important to take part in an exercise like this. We have to first realise that an organisation is made up of a lot of moving parts, and what works for some may not work for others.

I’m in a fortunate position where I’ve been able to witness this take place first-hand in my own organisation, Best Practice, as well as examine how this transpires in the context of other organisations across a multitude of industries. While the ingredients might be slightly different depending on your size, operations and whether or not you’re a B-2-B organisation or not, there’s some common threads, observations and lessons to take away from analysing how different management styles can both inspire and isolate certain types of people in organisations, so let’s have a look at the authoritative leadership style and see how it could transpire in the context of your organisation.

"Authoritative managers know what they want and direct what needs to be done. Managers with this style tend to be candid and to the point.”

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, I think it’s worth pointing out the distinctions between authoritative leadership and authoritarian leadership; the latter of which is an absolute no-no in any context. In the words of the author of the piece I’m drawing inspiration from, Laura Handrick, an “authoritative management style is the traditional style you think of when considering a business owner as ‘the boss’. It’s often used by experts who know how to accomplish business outcomes. Authoritative managers know what they want and direct what needs to be done. Managers with this style tend to be candid and to the point.”

As you can see, there’s not necessarily any negative connotations about an authoritative leadership style, as opposed to being an authoritarian leader that often resorts to intimidation tactics and bullying into getting results. This will only work for so long, and will certainly lead to a coup from your staff working under absolutely sub-par leadership. One of the clearest benefits of this leadership style is that it’s a style of management that more than often ends in things getting done; a result-driven management style for the benefit of the organisation, with the trickle-down benefits coming to employees later on in the process, as opposed to other leadership styles. A negative side of authoritative leadership, however, is that as Handrick puts it, “it doesn’t give much room for feedback, doesn’t ask for input, and often leaves some of the best ‘thinking’ behind.” This, for me, is a downside that outweighs the benefits - most of the time, at least.

During tough times and a crisis, straight-forward leadership and conventional wisdom often reigns supreme, but if we’re talking about everyday situations, problem-solving and brainstorming in meetings, I think the organisation ultimately benefits from having as many heads together as possible. Leaders often don’t have the best ideas in the room, and a good manager will realise this and open up the discussion to others in that meeting. This, of course, is all dependent on the context of the organistion, the individuals working in that organisation and everyone’s background and experience, as Handrick explains.

So, how can you best tell if authoritative leadership is the best for your organisation? Well, “if you are the founder of a business, you’re in the best position to direct, instruct and provide feedback to your employees. For example, let’s say you’ve been in the telecom business all your life, and you open your own radio station bringing on new, somewhat inexperienced staff to help you. You’ll want to provide specific expectations for everything… Your employees are learning from you, and you need to be ‘in charge’,” she writes.

Small businesses are often managed using the authoritative leadership style, as it’s more than often the founder and manager making the majority - if not all the important decisions - and delegating certain roles and responsibilities to staff. Another clear downside of this style, however, is the fact that it doesn’t scale too well if we’re talking about one CEO or manager. Only so many rational and sensible decisions can be made in a 24-hour period, and if you’re over-burdening the decision-maker, or that decision-maker is reluctant to hand over the reigns and ask for help, the organisation can ultimately suffer.

David Ezell, Executive Coach at Darien Wellness told Laura Handrick that “I am a coach for C-Level execs as well as entrepreneurs and helping them find their voice as a leader is important. I tell them the same thing I tell parents - be authoritative as opposed to being authoritarian. Set expectations and rules, support them when needed and reinforce behavior you like to see. Doing anything less means that they are missing one of the main points of having employees: they micromanage and wind up doing a great deal of work themselves.”

For now, we’ll wrap it up and talk about some other leadership styles in some articles coming to you over the next couple of days and weeks. Remember that there’s not necessarily any one-size-fits-all approach to management styles, so have a read through our entire thread of articles on the topic to gather some tips on how you can amalgamate the most effective leadership style possible for better results, happier staff and a more profitable 2020!

I’ll see you in the next piece.

Kobi Simmat.

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