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Operational and effective leadership is an important factor in the existence and success of any organization. It transforms probable into reality. Leadership is the main way in which people with authority influence the minds of others and drives the organizations forward for realizing the pre-identified goals. Leaders recommend new models when old ones become ineffective. Leadership is a very important resource of all institutions and is demonstrated by persons through a wide range of personal abilities and talents (Yukl, 2012). There are several leadership styles that undertake the task and maintain the core functions of an organization. This paper examines compares and contrasts the three major leadership styles namely; the autocratic, the bureaucratic and the laissez-faire leadership.
Autocratic leadership, also known as authoritative one, is normally seen as the classical approach. It is the type of leadership whereby the manager retains all the powers and the authority of decision-making process in an organization. In this case, an individual with authority does not consult the employees or his juniors, nor are they permitted to input their ideas in all aspects of running the organization. There is a big gap between the leader and the followers. The latters, the employees or the junior staff have to do what is expected of them, namely, to follow the orders given, without expecting any explanation whatsoever. In this leadership style, motivation at workplace is achieved by developing a tool for rewards and punishment. The autocratic style has received a lot of criticism over the last decades. Research has shown that companies that practice this kind of leadership experience the highest employee turnover and absenteeism in comparison with other organizations that bring in different styles. Thus, most employees tend to be more resistant to this leadership style. Studies have also found that the decision-making process is inefficient and less creative under autocratic leadership (Williams, 2009).
Autocratic leaders mostly do not trust their employees, do not allow them to contribute ideas and they rely on threats and punishment in order to influence their followers. This type of leadership is best applied in circumstances where there is less time for group decision-making and in cases where the leader is the most knowledgeable or experienced member of the group. It is also effective in cases where other leadership styles have failed and high production is needed on daily basis, where a leader's power is challenged by the employee, and where effective supervision can be achieved through detailed instructions and orders (Williams, 2009).
Bureaucratic leadership is the style whereby the executive manages with the help of prepared rules. In this case, everything is carried out according to a given policy or procedure, whereby the manager must stick to rules and procedure that are set. If something new comes up that is not covered by the book, the leader will refer it to the next higher level of management. The bureaucratic manager works within limited, demarcated space. His main responsibility is to enforce the available rules, therefore acting much like a police officer rather than the leader (Schermerhorn & Hunt, 2010).
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Unlike in the autocratic style, the bureaucratic managers do not retain the total powers and authority in decision-making process, but rather work within a given framework and has to consult or refer new cases to a higher authority. As the autocrat manager works in a dictatorship manner, the bureaucrat, on the other hand, works like a policeman by enforcing rules. The first one also emphasizes more on productivity than on the people, as compared to bureaucratic and laissez-faire (Schermerhorn & Hunt, 2010).
It is also referred to as the "hands-off" leadership style. Here, the manager gives minimal or no instructions and the employees have the freedom they need. The workers have the power and authority thus, they set goals, make decisions and solve problems on their own. The managers have full trust on their staff unlike in both the autocratic and bureaucratic styles. Laissez-faire is an effective style of choice that can be used in situations where the employees are highly educated, skilled and experienced, and where the staff are proud of their work and are self-driven to do it successfully on their own. It is also effective in cases where the employees are trustworthy and experienced. This model of leadership should not be used in companies where the managers do not understand their duties and hopes that the employees could cover for them (George & Jones, 2009).
Although all three leadership styles emphasize on productivity and performance, laissez-faire differs a lot from the other two because the employees are more satisfied and work in a more favorable environment acting as their own in comparison with the other two styles (Burns, 2012). Researchers have also associated laissez-faire with poor performance and low productivity due to the relaxed atmosphere and the employee’s attitude as compared to the autocratic and bureaucratic styles (Gunter, 2009).
Effective leadership remains the most important aspect for the success of the organization. There are several leadership styles that managers can choose from. Different styles are needed for various situations. Hence each manager needs to under which condition he/she can apply a certain style. At the same time, leaders should understand the significance of how their leadership style influence employees` performances and satisfaction, hence their productivity in general. Leadership strategies define every manager’s personal style. The influence of a leader`s style is of great importance since the individual’s work affects the overall performance of a group.