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You may be a tyrannical leader if…..

We’ve all either known one or have worked for one – the Tyrannical Leader. Whether you have experienced one first hand, or heard the horror stories from a friend or colleague, you know they exist. As far as we think we have all progressed as organizations, leaders and HR Pros, these types of leaders (I use that term loosely) still exist. It is hard to imagine that that is possible what with all the focus on “the war for talent”, employee engagement, retention, becoming “HR business partners” and having “seats at the table” and all that we haven’t eradicated these dinosaurs; unfortunately they still exist.

Angry tyrantHere is the real challenge – I don’t believe that in every case the tyrannical leader even knows that they are a tyrant. I believe that due to (organizational) nature and nurture factors, some folks have been brought up (professionally) thinking that their style of leadership (tyrannical) is normal. In other words, to show your staff that you are “the boss” you need to exert your power and influence in an overt and undue way. So, this post is for managers and leaders to do a bit of a self –check to see if they qualify as a tyrannical leader, and hopefully adjust their ways so that they can become more effective.

Before I delve into the self-check test, it is important to understand why self-realization is important here. As a leader, if you are seen and perceived as being a tyrant, you have no credibility and certainly no respect from your staff. So, how do you know if you fit the bill or not? Here the signs that you may be a tyrannical leader:

1. Widespread compliance: your employees do not question any direction or communication that you give. They never ask for any further clarification on anything. Like good soldiers, they take their orders and do what they think it is they are supposed to do. If you are experiencing this from your staff you might be thinking that that is a good thing and that everyone is marching along in unison and all is well. Let me assure you, they are not and it is not. The big problem with compliance is that it simply gets the tactical day to day stuff done. Your employees aren’t working towards some greater vision or bigger picture. They are simply appeasing you as the tyrannical leader on a daily basis so that they can survive another day at the office, collect their pay cheque and get home to their families.

2. Communication is one way: and that way is top down. In other words, you are the only one that is ‘communicating.’ You give the orders, you tell employees what is happening, how things are going to go and how they should be feeling. During your department meetings, your employees say very little (if anything) and never ask any questions. As the tyrannical leader, you might think that is great – “hey, these staff meetings take half the time they used to!” Believe me, it is not a good thing. Your staff are either too scared to say anything, for fear of repercussions, additional work, or being perceived as “high maintenance.” Or, they simply are dis-engaged and are just trying to survive another day under your regime. Either way, the lack of feedback and response from your staff is a BAD THING and is a reflection of your leadership style.

3. Lack of accountability: as a tyrannical leader, you will often be frustrated with your staff wondering why something has gone wrong, who did it, who was responsible and why did it happen. Here is the thing, tyrannical leaders are so often in the weeds with their staff and their work (i.e. micro-managing) or they have given redundant and/or identical instruction to multiple staff with the intent of speeding up the work, that at the end of the day no one is responsible for anything! The reason being, the tyrannical leader has inserted themselves into every element of the workflow so that no one could possibly be accountable for anything! So, as a leader, if you are experiencing this frustration with your staff, you might want to look in the mirror to see if maybe the problem isn’t in fact you.

4. Prolonged conversations: because the tyrannical leader feels the need to manipulate conversation and communication, you will often find that tyrannical leaders are very adept at pontificating about all matters (eliminates employees from having input) or they are great at filibustering so that no one else can have a say in any work related matters. If you find that you are speaking at your employees, or even to them, at a rate that exceeds the amount of time you are listening to them, than you have a problem. Besides, there is nothing more damaging to a leader’s credibility than when they ramble on in a meeting or conference call (perhaps even rant and rave) and employees are made to sit through it and listen. This just leads to more compliance from your staff (see point #1).

5. Email confirmations: this is great little test to see if you are a tyrannical leader and/or if your staff see you as one. If you find that after every conversation/instruction (or ‘order’) you give your staff, they ask for a quick email from you to verify things, than you have a huge problem. Your staff is telling you that they don’t trust you. Because they know you will either forget (exactly)what you instructed them to do, or if it doesn’t turn out ‘right’ they know you will try and blame them for the failure so they want your instructions in writing so that they can cover their butts (CYA). If you find you are sending emails out to your staff in this regard on a regular basis, well, I hate to tell you, but you may be a tyrannical leader.

Armed with a bit of knowledge, you may become self-aware as a leader and if you are seeing these signs, you have an opportunity to change. If you see them and don’t change, well, don’t say you weren’t warned when you start to lose staff, don’t achieve results or worse yet, see your business begin to crumble. If you work for someone like this, well you have a decision to make – hope that they change (become self-aware) or start looking elsewhere for work. I wish you the best of luck. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net


One Response

  1. […] submit that one of you (yourself or the manager) is no longer necessary in their role.  Better yet, read here to see if this describes you…… As always, I welcome your comments and […]

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