Managerial Dictatorship is Easy. Servant Leadership is Hard. It’s Your Choice.

Sometimes it feels really good to bark orders with authority.  I have friends who are former military who have forgotten they are “former” military. Man, can they bark.  They bark orders, responses, prayers, well wishes, corrections, directions and even praise. This is not a criticism. This is how a few of them are wired after military service.  Though their current approach isn’t, it sounds almost dictatorial. It sounds firm and solid. It sounds confident. There is no hesitation. There is an assuredness that can make people feel secure.

A friend and former Sergeant-Major of the US Marine Corps; (There is only one for the entire Corps by the way.) once explained to me that moral does not necessarily mean everybody is happy. Good moral means that everyone is secure in the roles they are expected to perform.  Good moral means that everyone is confident in the leadership they follow. Good moral means that everyone’s common cause is agreed upon and supported accordingly.

Dictatorships on the other hand seldom realize good moral, happy followers or long term beneficial results.  Though to some US military authority and dictatorships may seem to have a lot in common, the types of authority utilized are quite different.  At least in the United States of America our military is in support of freedom, safety and security. That is an authority we readily honor. US citizens have never been big fans of totalitarian governments or dictatorships. Fortunately for the US, and the world, this type of authority is not highly honored nor is it respected.  That type of authority and leadership leads to neither good morale nor happiness.

Being a dictatorial manager, program director, supervisor, team leader, business owner or an officer of a company can be very easy.  A good intimidating bark conveying an “I mean business” set of instructions can cause immediate reactions and results. Dictatorship management styles can instill a fear based respect in those you supervise.  That style delivers an unequivocal message about who’s in charge. Authoritarian leadership commands loyalty for fear of grave consequences. “Do it my way or else you’re out of here”, leaves little room for questions about who’s the boss.  And, therein lies the problem. It leaves little room for any questions at all.

At some point in our lives, we have all had an authoritarian, dictatorial type of manager, coach or leader.  Maybe we have even had someone in such a role in the name of our faith. That is the most confusing of all. Of course we always learn something with that type of leadership. Unfortunately we usually learn how we do not want to manage nor how we want to be as a person.  We may learn in such cases but we seldom thrive. We are hardly drawn out to perform better with our fullest devotion to company, cause or leadership. It’s hard to give your fullest when you are in constant fear or; worse yet, never sure when the next berating will occur.

As cruel as this type of management environment may seem, in the short to medium term it is much easier than its opposite, servant leadership.  Eventually, authoritarian leadership collapses upon its own angry overtones.  Anger and anger based authority is a managerial mask for fear and insecurity.  An oppressive management approach will only hold up in a short to medium term cycle or in a situation where no other employment is available. It’s a lot easier to intimidate than it is to foster that great Sesame Street concept we all know and love “cooperation”.    

Cooperation and collaboration take time, effort, concentration, listening, empathy, intention, planning, vision, goals, objectives and a well thought out mission to pursue.  Dictatorship as a management method may have all those same elements but they are developed in a vacuum. Servant leadership is impossible without a desire to serve others. Servant leadership does not mean everyone will always be happy.  There can even be a lull in moral once in a while. A servant leader notices those things and attempts to reconcile the underlying causes. The dictator may simply “fire” the perceived cause and never discover the underlying contributing issue.

Servant leadership is anchored in a sincere desire to serve customers, employees, fellow management, vendors, suppliers, distributors and whomever it takes to make your endeavor successful in meeting the mission of your company, organization, program or project.  Servant leadership also means fulfillment of your own desire to experience the highest sense of accomplishment in what you do as a leader and who you are as a person.

The attached article is an excellent reflection of a servant leader who is still growing and learning after 26 years with the same company.  While servant leadership is a greater challenge than managing as a dictator, we are never too old to learn and it is never too late.? What is your choice going to be?

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