Leadership style is an essential managerial characteristic. According to Lewin’s model, there are three types of leadership: authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire (Marquis & Huston, 2011). Authoritarian leadership is characterized by rigidity, strict control, and discipline. Such leaders mainly focus on the desired results. Within organizations, authoritative leaders tend to ignore social and psychological needs of their subordinates and, thus, contribute to the decrease of job satisfaction. By contrast, laissez-faire leadership is characterized by low exactingness, connivance, lack of discipline and rigor. It is associated with a share of managerial passivity and loss of control over subordinates by endowing them with complete freedom of action. Democratic leadership may be considered the golden mean between the previously mentioned leadership styles as it is based on collegiality, trust, communication, creativity, self-discipline, and stimulation. It is not focused solely on the results but recognizes the significance of the methods used to achieve them.
A well-known example of an authoritarian leader is Joseph Stalin who ruled the Soviet Union since the 1920’s until 1953. His governance is associated with all the characteristics of the given type of leadership including a high level of control over people/subordinates, motivation by coercion, downward communication flow, punitive criticism, etc. (Marquis & Huston, 2011). As mentioned by Goncalves (2013), coercive power is a negative form of management because it is characterized by influence through instilling fear in others. This trait can be found in Stalin’s rule. His regime is associated with the increase in the repressive functions of the government and the strict control over all spheres of individuals’ life. During that time, the government did not observe the fundamental human rights and freedoms including the freedom of speech, political, and religious self-expression. Those people who openly opposed Stalin’s policies were sent to prisons also known as gulags (corrective labor camps) where they could be worked to death.
An entirely opposite example is Robert Kennedy, a candidate for the post of the US president who was assassinated in 1968. The distinctive features of his leadership style are constructive criticism, open communication, accountability, and consideration of others’ interests. Although Kennedy did not become the US president, his leadership style was appealing to many people because he aimed to protect the essential human values and rights. He openly opposed racial discrimination and the Vietnam War. His primary objectives were the elimination of poverty and promotion of equality. In this way, he attracted the sympathy of people from the diverse social, ethnic, and demographic backgrounds. The democratic leadership style allows autonomy and fosters individual growth, as well as respect for individual rights and freedoms (Marquis & Huston, 2011). All these characteristics could be observed in the ideas promoted by Kennedy.
Two positive types of power distinguished by Goncalves (2013) include information power and charisma power. Comparing to authoritarian leadership that employs the principles of coercion and clearly determined hierarchy, democratic leaders usually influence people/subordinates through storytelling, communicating the visions of positive changes. Moreover, they demonstrate respect towards individual autonomy and freedom of choice. By instilling fear among the Soviet people, Stalin managed to achieve a significant level of military power. However, his political regime could have a detrimental effect on the culture in the country because it substantially suppressed creativity. On the contrary, democratic leadership style can be especially effective in the environments requiring innovation and creativity because it supports self-motivation and self-expression. Democratic leaders can be regarded as representatives of the society or a particular group, and while they strive to promote social/communal welfare, they show respect to individuality. In this way, democratic leadership is more favorable than the authoritarian management in many ways.
Goncalves, M. (2013). Leadership styles: The power to influence others. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 4(4), 1-3.
Marquis, B. L., & Huston, C. J. (2011). Leadership roles and management functions in nursing: Theory and application. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.