Tame Your Inner Tyrant

tame your inner tyrant at workAs a leader, do you strive to have complete authority over your team? Do you expect your employees to follow your every command and direction without questioning or understanding the rationale of your demands? If you do, watch out!

Not involving your team members in the decision-making process makes it impossible for them to take ownership of their work, resulting in poor motivation, momentum and morale. It’s then impossible for your company to perform at its best. So avoid this leadership practice by including employees on decision-making. Soon, you’ll have a culture of employees who are committed and using their talents to accelerate and drive results.

Tyranny in the workplace happens. Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that it develops because these leaders either:

a) depend on this management style to fuel their egos;
b) dictate as such because they lack faith in their people;
c) don’t know how to rule the roost effectively and motivate people in any other way; or
d) all of the above.

While the reasons for tyrannical, or autocratic, leadership may vary, one thing is for certain: It totally undermines a company’s culture and potential for success. It breeds an environment of fear and negativity, where employees don’t question or feel valued. They remain disconnected, directionless and underappreciated. If they’re unmotivated, which is often the case, then it’s usually an obvious consequence of the tyrannical leadership, not something else. Also, a workplace led by a “tyrant” usually lacks teamwork and collaboration. Ironically, the only commonality its employees might share may be their contempt for the boss and a desire to work against him or her — they’re united for the wrong reasons.

Since autocratic leadership does infect professional environments, what can you do? First, realize that tyrants are characteristically “always right,” so they’re not open to altering their toxic ways and it’s pretty tough, if not impossible, to tame a tyrant to your liking. That means you either take the approach that life’s too short and leave, or you find a way to make it work for you. Both approaches require you to change. If you leave, you’ve got to find a new job, possibly relocate, and navigate a number of seen and unforeseen risks. However, if you suck it up and stay, you’ll have to accept that decision as a choice, resist the urge to play “victim” in the situation, and do your best to make it work. This might mean changing your perspective (e.g., Nothing is forever!) or controlling your emotions (e.g., better managing the negativity). Although neither option sounds ideal, it helps to know you’ve at least got options.

It’s important to note that tyrannical leadership — in some situations — does get results and has its place. Consider a militaristic environment or an emergency situation in which people must take orders quickly or else suffer severe, possibly life-threatening consequences. Also, an autocratic management style is usually effective and necessary in job training. In the early stages of an employee’s tenure, it’s totally appropriate to give more rigid direction, but once this trainee is up to speed and performing as expected, the goal, again, is to empower him or her through decision-making and get this person invested in a culture of ownership and accountability.

Finally, if you’ve occasionally used an autocratic approach with your employees or notice a superior getting tough now and then, don’t fret. A little bit of such direct, measured authority is sometimes healthy to demonstrate. Just be ready to react if this management tactic digresses into more of an oppressive leadership style. You and the company could be headed for trouble, and hoping for “things” to turnaround or get better is a strategy you just can’t really trust.

When you’re delivering bad news, what’s the toughest or trickiest emotion to manage — why?

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