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Autocracy is not leadership

Leadership is nurtured by inclusion, not because it’s a nice to do, it’s a must-do.

2 min read



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Some bosses like to be in charge. Totally.

We call them autocrats.

“Companies used to be able to function with autocratic bosses,” wrote Harvard professor and author Rosabeth Moss Kanter. “We don’t live in that world anymore.”

The fallacy of autocracy is that it is efficient. In reality, it is not. Oh, it may work for a time, but only when the boss is fully engaged and fully in charge. People around the boss derive their authority by their proximity to the boss, not necessarily their ability to get things done. When the boss is away, the organization shuts down.

Worse, autocracy is not sustainable, not merely because of the lifespan of the boss but also because all power is centralized.

Leadership is nurtured by inclusion — not because it’s a nice to do but because it’s a must-do. Autocratic bosses bear the weight of the enterprise on their shoulders. While they may entertain outside counsel, the operative word is “entertain.”

Autocracy by nature is exclusionary. It chokes off the life force that comes from working with other people.

Down with autocrats. Up with leaders who share their power.

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2017, Trust Across America named him a Top Thought Leader in Trust for the fourth consecutive year. Global Gurus ranked John No. 22 on its list of top 30 global experts, a list he has been on since 2007. In 2014, named John to its list of top 50 leadership experts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including his newest, “MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.”

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