Leadership Thought #305 – Most Dictators Meet The Same Fate

February 24, 2012

Dictator Literature by Daniel Kalder review – the deathly prose of dic-lit  | Politics books | The Guardian

No one likes to work in a company run by a leader who acts like a dictator.  Just like in countries run by despots, there is always simmering discontent bubbling under the surface.  Fear can be an effective motivator especially in the short-term, but you will never get someone’s best effort.  And, in the long run, revolutionaries will start to emerge and people will find small ways to sabotage your efforts.  Organizational energy ends up being channeled in increasingly dysfunctional ways.  Moreover, the people that dictators put in leadership positions tend to be more sinister and less capable than themselves creating even more problems.  It is all a recipe for disaster.

Loyalty is a two-way street.  Sure, you can bribe or coerce people to help you, but what type of employee does that attract?  There are also many leaders who get by for long periods of time using a divide and conquer strategy, however at some point you will lose the critical mass necessary for on-going support and the bull’s-eye will be on your back.   Modern history has proven time and time again that the fate of most dictators ends in their removal from power or worse.  If it doesn’t happen to them, it almost always happens to their appointed successor.

To get the best out your employees they must feel they have a positive vested interest in the outcome.  They need to believe that their efforts are valued and their opinions respected.  There needs to be a genuine sense of individual empowerment.  Challenging the status quo should be encouraged rather than discouraged.  The culture should operate as a meritocracy where the rewards are commensurate with performance rather than privilege and/or position.  In addition, honesty and transparency in communication is of paramount importance if you want individuals to believe what you have to say rather than create their own biased view of reality.

You don’t scare or manipulate people to perform, but rather unlock their true potential and tap into their basic human needs to feel safe, integral to success, and connected to something bigger than themselves.  The owners of most private companies certainly have the freedom to decide what type of organization they want to build and culture they want to foster.  However, as with all things, actions inevitably have consequences…

If you act like a dictator, your reign may be impactful but it will be short.