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When It Makes Sense To Be A More Authoritative Leader

An authoritative leadership style is best used in situations when a company seems to be drifting. See if this style is right for you.

When It Makes Sense To Be A More Authoritative Leader
[Photo: Flickr user Carles Tomás Martí]

Authoritative leaders are most effective in vision casting, as well as providing clarity for the vision. Such leaders know how to motivate people by showing how their work fits into the company’s bigger vision. They also know how to maximize the commitment of their people to the goals and strategy of the organization.

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Authoritative leadership is one of the first six leadership styles introduced by psychologist Daniel Goleman in his theory of emotional intelligence. Authoritative leaders, according to Goleman, are those who can articulate a vision, and mobilize people toward that vision.

Those who are working under an authoritative leader understand the importance of what they do and why. They also clearly know the standards and rewards for success.

Tom And The Pizza Chain: Authoritative Leadership In Action

Tom was the vice-president of marketing at a local pizza restaurant chain, which was suffering from the poor performance of its employees. Every Monday, the management team met to evaluate everything, and tried hard to find a solution for this problem. Tom thought that this method was ineffective because it looked to the past–not to the future.

During an offsite meeting, Tom pointed out their mistake, boldly saying that the company was in the business of delivering high-quality pizza. Everything they do should revolve around this idea.

Tom occupied a missing leadership vacuum by providing a clear vision for the company. He made sure their planning process revolved around that vision, and clearly articulated the vision to the store managers.

With a change of perception, the store managers became more dynamic and proactive. In short, they began to act more like entrepreneurs with a sense of ownership for the stores they managed.

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Will The Real Authoritative Leader Stand Up?

The terms authoritative and authoritarian are used interchangeably. However, there is a big difference between them.

Authoritative is defined as commanding, self-confident, and likely to be respected and obeyed. Authoritarian, on the other hand, is defined as someone who enforces strict obedience to authority, even at the expense of personal freedom. In short, authoritative leaders earn respect, while authoritarians demand respect.

Authoritative leadership also includes a spectrum of styles. A person with this leadership style can manifest one or more variant, depending on the situation. Different types of authoritative leadership include:

1. The Reflective

These types of authoritative leaders are more intuitive and dependent on their experience when pushing their people to action. They do not enforce commands, but direct their people with unwavering conviction and dedication. The speed of their response to a certain situation is based on their own perspective, believing that their strategy is the most effective, and leading their people toward that vision.

2. The Adaptive

These are very flexible authoritatives because they can change their style to the situation. He or she might exercise firm decisions in high-pressure situations, but he or she is also highly aware if the method is counterproductive.

3. The Reactive

These types of leaders are highly reactive and volatile because of unresolved personal issues that contribute to a deep sense of insecurity. Sure, they have the vision and the expertise, but they tend to use power instead of expertise and rash behavior in place of authority.

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Benefits and Downsides of An Authoritarian Leadership Style

Hay McBer, a consulting firm conducted a study involving thousands of executives all over the world to understand their behavior and their impact in the workplace. It revealed that authoritative leadership has the most positive impact, and is most effective in almost any business situation. However, there are benefits and downsides to it.

This leadership approach allows people to take calculated risks, as well as to innovate and to experiment. However, a company that has no clear vision, or is adrift, will benefit highly from this approach because this leader knows how to create a new method and motivate his people on a fresh, long-term vision.

If a situation calls for a quick decision without consulting other team members, the authoritative leader is a good fit for this. An authoritative leader will be able to accomplish a project quickly and efficiently.

Authoritative leadership will not work in groups where the members are experts or are more experienced than the leader. He will end up sounding pompous and empty.

If decisions are always made without consultation, the people under this type of leader might come to resent him because they are unable to contribute their ideas. They will even begin to view the leader as bossy or dictatorial.

Should You Be An Authoritative Leader?

This type of leadership works best in situations where control is vital and there is little margin for error. Rigid rules set by the authoritative leader will keep the group out of harm’s way. Another situation where it works is in an organization filled with inexperienced subordinate staff because the company needs heavy oversight.

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Keep yourself in constant check and balance so that you won’t go overboard with your scrutiny and strictness. Instead, be intentional with how and when you make your demands to your people.

James Richman is a business author, and much of what he writes about is based on his own experiences–both good and bad–as the CEO of the globally recognized and trusted online technology company 1stWebDesigner.