Autocratic,Paternalistic, Democratic, Laissez faire and Unorthodox management styles

Posted by hecto on October 8, 2011 under Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

Then there are certain situations in which a manager must adopt set pathways of behaviours, emotions, thoughts and actions in order to bring optimal results to the company which he/ she governs arising from those situations. These behavioural pathways are labeled as autocratic, paternalistic, democratic and laissez-faire.

Autocratic management style
An autocratic management style is exactly how it is described. This style is grounded on a set of presumptions about the employee’s behavior and attitudes, these set of presumptions encompassed in a theory entitled “theory X” formulated by the late Harvard business school professor Douglas McGregor. Theory X takes a rather cynical view towards the lowly employee, its assumptions being: the employee doesn’t like to work, is a feckless follower, acts purely for the benefits of oneself, narrow-mindedness and shows foolish naivety. From this basis, it is expected that the employees are to obey their manager unconditionally, the employee’s views on how the company can be improved are seen as worthless. Managers who adopt this set type of behaviours and thought patterns feel elation due to the absolute power they wield which in turn inflates their egos and makes their employees feel resentment due to their manager’s oppressive behavior much like a tyrannical monarch or emperor in the days of old. This practical application of theory X is called the hard approach.
There are two types of an autocratic manager, one being a “directive autocrat” and the other being a “permissive autocrat”. The “directive autocrat” is one who makes decisions entirely by themselves and holds a firm grip on the activities of their employees. The “permissive autocrat” is one who makes decisions entirely by themselves but gives a small measure of freedom to their employees to go about carrying out their orders. The autocratic style is best suited where obeying the decision of the manager is of prime importance especially when the subordinates have little experience themselves (professions such as those in the army or the government) or when the manager is dealing with subordinates who lack the motivation and passion.
The major disadvantage of the autocratic management style can be observed when McGregor combines theory X with Maslow’s theory of human needs called ‘the hierarchy of needs” (note: Maslow’s theory of needs will be explained a little further on in this article). McGregor claims that once a human need has been fulfilled, there is no motivation or will. In the context of business, theory X hinders the employees to work at their full potential because their higher needs such as social interaction (e.g. love intimacy) and self-development (e.g. sense of purpose) are not being satisfied. To counter this deficiency, money is used to inefficiently fulfill the employee’s lower needs (e.g. self-validation, security etc.) Thus the employees are unhappy and are hesitant to work effectively so the autocratic management style is not efficient.

Paternalistic management style
Paternalistic management style is similar to the autocratic style in that the manager has overall control of the company and expects his/ her orders to be obeyed when given to the subordinates. However one important criterion of paternalistic management style that separates it from an autocratic style is that while an autocratic style demands that subordinates submit themselves to the will of their manager and in doing so generate resentment among the employees, a paternalistic style of management avoids this as the manager will listen to the needs of their employees to an extent and will issue commands on the basis of benefiting their subordinates and the business as a whole. Paternalistic management style can be considered to be the soft approach in the practical application of theory X. This type of approach has links with the psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory in which Maslow theorised that humans, in particular workers of a business have a set category of needs placed in order of priority with the lowest being basic needs e.g. eating, sleeping etc, the next need being safety e.g. the need to feel self- validated such as accomplishing a university degree, earning high salary etc and the next two category of needs being of a social and self developmental nature (an example of the former being love, intimacy etc and an example for the latter being to formulate a unique moral code, finding one’s own purpose in life etc.). It is at these two stages at a particular stage in an employee’s life that the paternalistic style of management is best to be employed to help fulfill the employee’s social and self-developmental needs by the manager providing close supervision to them while they work and forming a close relationship with them by exchanging views.

Democratic management style
The democratic style of management is a multilateral approach that involves the manager empowering his /her employees to share decisions with the manager listening to all views and finding the best overall decision from the amalgamation of the views he/ she deems useful for the company after much deliberation and time. However, rather than the democracy of Western countries, democracy in the context of business management requires the ability to form well informed opinions on the part of the company employees. Due to the employee’s views and input being taken into account for a business process e.g. being instrumental in designing or implementing improvements of a product or service i.e. innovation from a broad spectrum of people and at the same time realize the significance and effect their decisions may have on the company’s future may well feel obligated to put more effort into completing their assigned roles. Not only do empowered employees feel obligated to work harder but they also required less supervision by managers as they are encouraged to collectively think together. Hence it could be said that the democratic style of management can be likened to laissez faire style of management in some respects.
The drawbacks of the democratic style of management is that the time taken to make a decision and enact is far longer than the other systems and there is a possibility that the manager may lose importance towards the employees as the manager is seen to be unable to make a decision for himself/ herself. The other problem is that there is such a diversity of viewpoints given to the manager that it initially perplexes him/ her and makes it harder for the manager to formulate a decision.

Laissez faire management style
The laissez-faire style of management involves the manager having minimal control of the activities of their subordinates. The style of the great American business man, Warren Buffett is what best exemplifies the effective use of this management style. It is best employed when the subordinates are highly trained and motivated such as doctors and PhD students where the progress of their work is monitored by the supervising manager and given feedback and advice. The disadvantage of a laissez-faire style is that the employees may feel neglected due to lack of guidance most likely as the manager is incompetent and doesn’t intentionally employ this style for the benefit of the company. The employee is also seen to be not recognized and rewarded for superb work they might have done. Another crucial disadvantage is that since a certain amount of autonomy is granted from the overseeing manager to the employees and lower ranking managers, unchecked discretion is given to them in dealing with disputes and other matters within their respective branch or organization. If in the case that a small dispute grows uncontrollably, it will damage the overseeing manager’s reputation and the company as a whole (as in the case with Warren Buffett).
Not only are the autocratic, paternalistic, democratic and laissez-faire management styles available at the manager’s disposal and discretion but other factors are involved that are crucial for a manager to successfully manage his/ her own business, these factors being the ability to adopt an unorthodox approach, good judgment when making and acting on decisions at key phases of the company, awareness of external factors that have a considerable effect on the company as well as to structure their systems in the most simplistic way as well as encourage their employees to simplify problems.

Unorthodox management style
Normally, mainstream society tends to not have a favourable view towards individuals who do not conform to what mainstream society expects of them. This is due to these special types of individuals being misunderstood in terms of their different way of thinking, behavior, appearance etc and so are consequently shunned and ostracized. However, it is in the realms of business, science and other spheres of interest deemed exclusive by the majority that these rare breed of people excel in. It has been known that preeminent businessmen were or are rich due to the unique way they thought and approached their business such as John D. Rockefeller.
What is the most popular or favoured by the majority does not necessarily mean it is correct as shown by the flaws in modern democracy and so it can be said for business where in cases in which a non-conformist manager experiments with new ways of handling a business, this leads to success as a result of implementing these novel ideas. Recognizing an improvement or a set of improvements within a business system should be seen as a good thing as it can lead to lower costs and more efficiency instead of shrugging off these proposals which conservative managers tend to do. A good business manager is one who recognises these improvements, asks himself/ herself what are the disadvantages and advantages of such a novel idea being implemented and if advantages outweigh the disadvantages, the manager implements them immediately. Being unorthodox also spares the manager from having to worry about following conventions or spending more money due to these conventions.

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