Did the word ‘Authoritarian’ shock you? Well, political correctness aside, there is at least one unique quality of the madman Hitler that is followed by leaders of some of the most successful corporations across the globe – an authoritarian leadership style – a quality that has been a significant reason in ensuring that such corporations are viewed as being amongst the leading business units of this world! This is because while leadership styles which are more democratic are wonderful to read and be applied, such styles can be successful only when the people you are leading are most mature, responsible and ambitious. And despite what one may wish or imagine, finding such people to work with is near impossible!

If you believe that I have tumbled over the edge and am referring back to the days of Theory X management – which used to be ruthlessly applied in the early stages of industrialization when coal mining used to be the key industry – well, it almost is so. The only difference is that technology has made today’s autocratic leadership look very savvy! The best of corporations today have the same lack of trust in their employees’ sincerity levels as they used to have years back in the coal mines. But today, they never really exhibit it vocally. Instead, we have automated processes which leave no option for an employee to work as per his personal preferences.

Whether he likes it or not, phone calls are thrown at him by the automatic software, his restroom breaks are timed, his precise location during office hours is tracked through GPS, and more. Be it manufacturing or services, employees are not given a choice in any great organisation anymore. For the leaders have realized that given a choice, most employees are under productive. So technology is today used to force them to deliver. Autocratic leadership is done unhindered through the use of more and more ruthless technologies. And the most successful leaders use this style of leadership without guilt and to achieve the best of results with the majority of people (but intelligently spare the few mature colleagues they might have who work with passion and without the need for being ordered).

Late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple (still the face of Apple), was the exemplar of this style of leadership. Once out of Apple after a power struggle with the-then top management (the top brass considered him a “control freak”), he struck back, and is today the strongest example of how an insistence on total control over your company and employees (call it totalitarian leadership if you like) and a focus on innovation can keep the clock ticking, with the sound getting sweeter by the second. There was a time when during late 1997, only a year after Jobs had taken over as Apple’s Interim-CEO (he had returned to Apple in late 1996), someone had asked Michael Dell during a conference what he would have done had he been in Jobs’ shoes. Dell’s reply to this was, “I’d shut Apple down and give the money back to the shareholders.” Then, Apple was just worth $3.1 billion, while Dell was worth $28.1 billion. 14 years later, Dell has been almost stagnant with an m-cap of $28.9 billion (as on April 26, 2012), while Apple’s m-cap has grown by 18,248.39% to touch $568.8 billion (as on April 26, 2012) and it is today the most valuable company in the world! [The next most valuable is miles behind – Exxon Mobil with an m-cap of $409.34 billion.]

What Jobs did was to use a tyrannical leadership style – fire and force at will – to ensure that his employees delivered products that consumers lusted after, in an ever-evolving digital world. It has worked so far. Writes the American author Andrew Keen’s in his best-seller titled, The Cult of the Amateur, “There’s not an ounce of democracy at Apple. That’s what makes it a paragon of such traditional corporate values as top-down leadership, sharply hierarchical organisation and centralised control. It’s Steve’s company – pursuing his vision, at his pace, with his team, making his products. Without Steve Jobs’ authoritarian leadership, Apple would be just another Silicon Valley outfit...” In one of his conversations with one of Planman Media’s publications, Discover The Diamond In You, Colorado-based technology expert Rick Sturm, CEO of Enterprise Management Associates, says, “Steve Jobs is a special example of a leader who dominated his company employees and guided them rightly with his authoritarian leadership style and unmatchable vision. He believed that one man with one vision can make Apple an iconic brand and company. And we see that his belief has actually materialised.”     Read More....

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