Why Using Power and Authority as a Leadership Style Fails?

In September @CFR Global Executive Search enjoyed an insightful and productive annual conference.  While many of our partners are faced with cost pressures, domestic energy challenges, interest rate and inflation hurdles while the world continues to understand the impact of significant conflict and humanitarian crisis. As executive recruiters are problems are less dramatic though at the same time complex – we are challenged by a shortage of talent. Typically, our colleagues are searching for talent, who are often staying with organisations rather than seek new opportunities.

While talented professionals are more conservative in pursuing career moves and more discerning in the organisations they consider one contact remains the same – people still leave poor leadership. What is also evident, in challenging economic environment is that leaders are making centralised decisions however there is a real risk in using power and authority the primary leadership style.

Using power and authority as a primary leadership style can fail for several reasons:

Lack of Trust and Respect: Relying solely on power and authority can erode trust and respect among team members. When leaders make decisions without considering input from others or use their authority to enforce their will, it can create resentment and a hostile work environment.

Reduced Morale and Engagement: When employees feel that their opinions and ideas are not valued, they are less likely to be engaged and motivated. This can lead to decreased morale and productivity within the team.

Resistance and Non-Compliance: An authoritarian leadership style often results in resistance and non-compliance from team members. People may do what they are told, but they may not put in their best effort or may find ways to subvert the leader’s directives.

Creativity and Innovation Suppression: Creativity and innovation thrive in an environment where individuals are encouraged to think freely and contribute their unique ideas. An authoritarian leader can stifle creativity by imposing rigid rules and stifling open communication.

High Turnover and Burnout: Constantly exercising power and authority can lead to high employee turnover and burnout. When employees feel micromanaged or undervalued, they are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere or experience physical and emotional exhaustion.

Inflexibility: Authoritarian leaders often resist change and can be inflexible in their decision-making. This can be detrimental in rapidly changing industries where adaptability is crucial for success.

Limited Problem-Solving and Decision-Making: An authoritarian leader may make decisions in isolation, without considering the input and expertise of their team members. This can lead to suboptimal decisions and missed opportunities.

Lack of Employee Development: Authoritarian leaders may not invest in the development and growth of their team members. This can hinder the long-term success of the organization, as it relies on a skilled and motivated workforce.

Ethical Concerns: An over-reliance on power and authority can lead to ethical issues, as leaders may prioritize their personal interests or the interests of a select few over the well-being of the organization and its stakeholders.

Poor Communication: Effective communication is a cornerstone of successful leadership. Authoritarian leaders often fail to communicate effectively, which can result in misunderstandings, confusion, and misalignment within the team.

While there may be situations where an authoritarian leadership style is necessary, such as in crisis management or disaster operations, it is generally considered less effective in modern organisational settings. Successful leaders often adopt a more balanced approach that combines elements of various leadership styles, such as transformational, democratic, and servant leadership, to build strong, collaborative, and motivated teams.

Article written by David Gallagher, CFR Global Executive Search Australia
Photo source: Freepik

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