The Different Characteristics between the Autocratic, Laissez-faire and Democratic Leaders


Let us consider, “Who is a leader?” A leader is a complex personality embodying many things.

So, a leader is someone who leads others, mainly because others accept him as having the capability to lead usually from the front, normally into new, unknown territories.

As you know, because of the unknown nature of the new territory, there may be dangers, indeed grave dangers, but a leader should be courageous to cart his way through.

The Autocratic Leadership

The autocratic leader imposes his will and ways on others.

To him, he is the only person who can think well, either for his projects or for the group. Indeed, he does not brook suggestions; he stamps down on such and regards their authors as enemies that should be pulled down.

There is the classic case of a commanding officer who would bark at any subordinate that dared say, “I think…” with “You are not here to think! Leave the thinking tome!”

However, deep down, the autocratic leader behaves this way mainly because he knows there is a severe limitation to his innate abilities and hides behind the display of bravado in most cases. In many cases, he realizes that the average greenhorn in the workshop or office might excel him if given the chance.

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The autocratic leader thinks of how to mete out punishments to subordinates.

There was one departmental head in a manufacturing company who spewed out a query each day. At the end of a typical month, each officer below his rank would have received at least two queries.

The result was inevitable workers were more busy attending to the queries than to their work. So, nothing was moving; a charged atmosphere of fear prevailed; productivity was virtually nil.

The autocratic cannot brook rivalry.

Any subordinate who dares display any form of superior intelligence is marked down as an enemy. Such a scenario came to a head one day when a completely new machine was brought in with a manual in Spanish.

No one had any idea of how to operate it and none could read the manual. After many weeks of trial and error, one of the most junior workers tried his hand and got it working. The feat was announced to the head of the department who painfully watched the young man on the machine.

Thereafter, he warned the greenhorn to keep his mouth shut while he walked across to the most superior officer, the Managing Director, to announce that he had worked out the operation of the machine.

With that, the young man tendered his resignation the following day, knowing that his future in the company was sealed.

The Laissez-faire leadership

At the other far end from the autocratic leader is the laissez-faire leader.

This is the carefree type of leader who does not have control of the group he is leading in his firm grip. He is unwilling to get involved in what is going on and he would rather look the other way to avoid taking action when this is necessary.

Imagine a car cascading down a steep valley with the driver looking blank and his hands off the steering wheel. Even, when the car is zooming off the road and into the bush, he remains the same.

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To begin with, it may have its root in his inherent inability to function or his inability to drive. Whichever the root causes might be, the result is an inevitable crash, occasioning serious damage to the vehicle and possible loss of human lives.

At the governmental level, a laissez-faire leader does not have many rules or laws and does not care to affect even the few there are.

This engenders a situation in which everybody does what he likes. In a society where there are many people, each one doing whatever he likes, there is no way different people would not run into one another.

Just imagine what would happen if different drivers use the road anyhow, parking where it catches their fancy, driving on whichever lane they like, stopping right in the center of the road to buy a bananas from the roadside farm, etc.

The scenario would be much worse if the police do not care to take action, even when there is an accident. The result is inevitable chaos.

Under a laissez-faire government, the economy would crumble and poverty would pervade the land.

The rich may get progressively richer because they have the wherewithal to manipulate the poor, but the poor in turn could develop into a terrible criminals holding the rich at the jugular.

So, nobody is safe, and whatever edifices there would soon collapse. A laissez-faire leader is not fit for any society, group, or organization.

The Democratic leadership

In between the autocratic and the laissez-faire leaders is the democratic leader.

This is the leader who leads by example. He does what his people want, having consulted them on most issues. He has his ears to the ground most of the time, so he knows their problems ad needs. From time to time, he plans for them and works out how best to solve their problems.

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In all these, he never works alone; rather, he works along with recognized experts and specialists in various fields of human endeavor.

And once he assigns them to specific duties, he does not breathe down their necks. He allows them free rein, though he is never too far off to help just in case the team encounters some peculiar problems.

One great virtue of a democratic leader is honesty.

He should be transparent in all his deeds and should not hide behind any smokescreen. What he says is what he means, and when he knows something is not possible or workable, he does not hide his feelings.

So, his followers can trust him fully and are ready to go with him anywhere since they know that he will stand by them in the case of any eventuality.

And in any case, since a project being pursued may have been initiated by them, they should be prepared to work themselves to the marrow to see it to fruition. To be fully trusted, the leader should have his hands clean.

With him, corruption is an anathema to be avoided like shit. A democratic leader is not after wealth; though by working hard, he may land him great fame among his people. What then drives him?

It is this – that he wants the greatest good for the greatest number of his people. His constant aim is to put a smile on the face of each follower, unlike the autocratic leader whose stock in trade is to make others cry.

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