Differences Between a Conformist, an Authoritarian and an Autocratic Leader

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A leadership style is the method of motivating individuals, implementing strategies, and giving guidance to organizations. Many authors have identified many different leadership styles as displayed by various leaders in both the organizational and political arenas. Following are some of the leading styles and their characteristics. Leaders may use one or more of these styles in varying degrees to boost leadership effectiveness:

Authoritarian: Leaders with this style assume that their subordinates are automatically right and have little or no ability to think for themselves. They use force and physical aggression to get results. Individuals drawn to authoritarian leadership styles are strong-minded and ambitious.

Authoritarian leader: This leadership style involves autocratic control and disregard for individual rights and freedoms. They usually do not accept suggestions and do not tolerate alternative viewpoints. Those who exhibit this leadership style are manipulative and coldhearted. They lack compassion and have little regard for others. They lack respect and often abuse power.

Autocratic: Leaders with this style assume that their subordinates are intelligent and capable of making reasonable decisions. They set firm goals and provide a high level of motivation. Those who exhibit this trait are trustworthy and able to lead. Those who are drawn to autocratic leadership are idealistic and confident.

Conformist: Leaders with this style are trustworthy, and reliable but are usually indecisive and diffident. They set time limits for issues and do not take other issues into serious consideration. This leadership style is characterized by under-reaction and inability to act on ideas. Those who are drawn to conformists are passive and reluctant change agents. They often lack creativity and are usually obedient.

All these leadership style characteristics reflect a certain amount of variation. Different individuals will possess different traits. These traits however are general enough to reflect a certain type of personality. It is thus important that one identify the personality type they most resemble in order to best suit the leadership style they wish to assume.

Some of the most admired leaders have clearly defined leadership styles. Mahatma Gandhi for example, has been described as a revolutionary leader. However, it is important to note that even he did not follow a single style. He attempted to implement a number of alternatives in his leadership style depending upon the circumstances. As a result, even followers found their voice occasionally in his speeches.

In contrast, few leaders stick to just one leadership style. They are, after all, highly skilled communicators and can adapt to any situation to suit their purpose. For example, they could adopt a direct style that is effective in situations where followers need to be kept informed. Or they could use indirect style which is used in situations where information must be gradually conveyed to a large number of people without making mistakes.

All these styles, however, share a common element. They are effective only if they are adapted as per the particular situation. The key then is to identify the best leadership style for an individual or a team. Once this is done, leaders should make sure that it is incorporated in all their communication. This way, they not only communicate their message effectively but also guide their followers in the right direction.

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