Managing with Authority and Democracy

By: mmmesh
If you watch closely, you will eventually notice that people who manage the work of others tend to fit into one of two categories: authoritarians or democrats.

The authoritarians, as you would expect, manage by telling others what to do. They are not big on eliciting opinions of their subordinates, and not coincidently, their superiors usually treat them in much the same way.

They get whipped like dogs, then they turn around and whip their charges like smaller dogs. Information and direction flow downhill only. Things get done, but quality of work output and quality of employee life suffers.

The democratic manager is quite opposite. He will seek consensus and try to make sure everyone on the team is happy. Things get done eventually and the love-in can be quite heartwarming. Employee satisfaction is high, but efficiency can lag.

I paint these opposing management styles in purposefully stark contrast. In the real world of course, managers fall on a continuum with these extremes as endpoints. What places them at their unique position on the numberline?

Corporate personality - the kind that flows downhill in an organization, and the manager's inherent personality combine (harmoniously or otherwise) placing the manager somewhere on the scale of the authority-democracy meter.

The art of managing becomes the blending of the best of both worlds for the betterment of the organization. Then, it usually follows that as the organization succeeds, so does the individual.

As managers strive to balance authority and democracy in their management styles, they would do well to add two more factors to the mix: reality and results.

After all, it may seem that the source of authority is the boss from above, the guy who feeds workers with a paycheck.

But the higher authority is the marketplace. If your company, with its unique mix of people, products and philosophies performs well in the marketplace, it will grow and bring rewards to the individual.

Thus, the reality of the marketplace, as well as the results your organization is able to deliver will be a key determinant of the rewards your company will be able to distribute to its people.

Reality and results are the real bosses in business and an enlightened management style should reflect this realization. How to we blend authority, democracy, reality and results?

Authority: "Do it because I said so."
Democracy: "Will you do it? Do you think it is the right thing to do?"
Reality: "Our competition is doing it. We need to do it to compete."
Results: "We did well last quarter doing it. Let's do it more."
Blended: "Joe's research indicated that it has helped our efforts. Jane has determined that we have gained market share with it. It's time to really push in this direction. Here are goals for the next quarter. Best of luck everyone, let's beat 'em."
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