Have you ever watched a military commander give orders? When the military commander tells his soldiers to march, they march without thinking or doubting for a second. No soldier stops midway to look up and question the decision of the commander. They trust that the commander is right and cannot be wrong, which is why they are supposed to comply.
Well, to be honest, a military commander knows better than all the others taking orders. That’s why they believe in what the leader says in the first place. This is what autocratic leadership actually means. There’s no better way to describe autocratic leadership.
Going further, when talking about autocratic leadership, it is vital to understand that communication will always be one-way. Which means that the orders and commands will be told and explained to the workers, and they have to follow them whether they agree or not.
Democratic leadership, on the other hand, is totally opposite to autocratic leadership. When we talk about modern businesses and the pinnacle of successful leadership, then democratic leadership style comes to mind.
Democratic leadership is when the leader believes in two-way communication. The leader understands that the workers and the employees need to communicate their ideas upward, otherwise there won’t be innovation. Due to this, the organization will become stagnant.
Stagnation will further lead the organization to rot. When rotting occurs, there’s no saving the organization. Since technology and our planet is moving so fast, people need new things and innovation day by day. They do not want to stick to the past and its old products because they belong to yesterday.
Well, idea generation can only be done when there is discourse. A healthy discourse allows for ideas to flow through, both good and bad. When ideas come from workers and employees who actually work on the ground, they know what they are talking about. Not denying that the manager or leader knows nothing, but most of the time leaders are busy with their own work and they might not have the right amount of time to visit the ground where the magic happens (where the product/service is built).
Differences Between the Two
In autocratic leadership, the decisions are taken by the leader only. The followers are supposed to comply, whether they agree or not. In democratic leadership, decisions are made after debate, discourse and the ability to make decisions relies with the leader, however, it is affected by the opinions of the group members.
Autocratic leadership is task-oriented. What this means is that they usually stress on tasks. For autocratic leaders, nothing is more important than the task at hand. Think of a military leader who wants to save the country. The only goal is to save the country, even if all the civilians die. This makes autocratic leadership a very conservative approach. Meanwhile, on the other hand, democratic leadership is relations oriented. This means that the leader believes in creating and maintaining relations in the workplace. So these types of leaders will always maximize the happiness of the workers if it comes to that point, and they will also encourage discourse.
Autocratic leaders believe that their workers belong in the Theory X section. This section says that power should not be given to workers. Employees are lazy and they do not want to work. Therefore, they need to be monitored and they need to be forced to work. Democratic leaders, on the contrary, believe in the Theory Y approach. This approach says that workers are willing and able to work. Furthermore, they do not need to be monitored because they are motivated to work already.
In autocratic leadership, autonomy is very low. What this means is that during work, employees will have absolutely no say in anything. Even if it is something that affects them and their work, they still won’t get a say. On the other hand, democratic leadership promotes autonomy. In this style, autonomy is high since workers get to have a say in what happens to them.
Downsides of Autocratic Leadership
There are many downsides of autocratic leadership, but the first biggest downside is that it is too rigid. This means that the leader does not believe in change, and even 20 years from now, the leader will still hold power in their own hands. This rigidness makes it very hard for change to come through. When change does not arrive, then there is no improvement in work policies, ethics, or how things work and how the workplace sustains.
The second disadvantage of autocratic leadership is that it relies too much on the leader. Well, since it is a one-man show, the leader is expected to be at the main or the front of the ship. In fact, the leader is the only one on the ship and the workers are all locked in a room downstairs.
If something happens to the leader, or if the leader is unavailable and the workers are forced to make a decision, then what will they do or say? Since the workers have only known to say yes, they will be clueless when the situation asks them to make a decision.
Positives of Democratic Leadership
The first, biggest positive is that workers will feel valued and important. When a leader asks about the opinions of their workers regarding matters, then they will obviously feel that they are relevant and worthy.
This will lead them to feel better about themselves, and they may be motivated to work. Note that this can also lead them to possess intrinsic motivation, which is caused without giving anything such as financial or nonfinancial benefits in return.
Moving on, motivation can then allow workers and employees to work better. Since their efficiency will increase, they will begin to produce more output in the same amount of time. Moreover, they may make less mistakes and this can help the organization to gather more profits.
Democratic leadership is obviously better than autocratic. However, there are some instances when autocratic leadership might work, such as offices and places where the workers are very new. They may be told what to do, and they might look for guidance because they are beginners.
But, yes, since the modern dynamics have changed, workers of all levels, whether newbies or experts, want democratic leaders because they listen and work on the feedback they receive from their valued staff. So, yes, there are clear advantages of democratic leadership in most cases. To figure out the best leadership style for your employees, it is always good to ask for their feedback, and there are plenty of ideas to ask for feedback.