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Who's Your Daddy? Five Tips to Survive an Autocratic Leader

The twentieth-century autocratic leadership model still exists in many organizations

Y2K is a distant memory but the years leading up to the last millennium created immeasurable angst about the year 2000 software problem. The preface and the end of many conversations included the idea that the anialation of humankind was close, so Y2K held us under a spell of absolute control.

Much like the role of Y2K, the “my way or the highway” autocratic leader exacts absolute control and demands blind obedience. The sole responsibility of the decision and the outcome is with the leader”[1] though a negative outcome can quickly become a finger-pointing exercise that often results in the termination of the most convenient target(s).

The dictatorial personality of the autocrat exhibits an inclination to try to micro-manage every department and everyone within the organization. There is a lack of trust by the autocratic leader who assumes that others lack the intellect for, and are incapable of, good decision-making.[2] The damage to the core organization can be irreparable and it results in a revolving door of employees leaving the organization, whether willingly or not.

This is not a recommendation to do so but if you are willing to abandon your scruples, here are five tips that can help you survive in an organization with an autocratic leader at the helm-

  • Read “The Prince” by Niccolò Machiavelli and become an expert on the subtle, and not so subtle, manipulation of others because the Renaissance period Machiavelli is handing you the playbook
  • Kiss butt and get good at it because the autocratic leader considers it a form of paying homage; try not to be too obvious because everyone is disposable, including the nephew.
  • It is said that the autocratic leader “creates their own reality”[3] so go with it. When they say that the last person that left or was terminated “…isn’t here for a reason” nod your head emphatically and respond with “Good riddance to bad rubbish!”
  • Check your feelings at the door and pick them up on the way out ten or twelve hours later. The autocratic leader cares nothing about your feelings so just turn them off for the entire workday as the recommended best practice
  • Become invisible and do not make eye contact. If you work in an office with a window to the corridor put up beige curtains and keep the door closed. In fact, become beige in all facets of your character while at the office. After you leave the office for the day, flip to full party- monster mode to counter the bad juju.

Bonus tip: Keep your CV looking sharp, stay alert, and take care of yourself. You're better than the leadership example that's been provided within the organization.

[1] “What Is Autocratic Leadership? Definition of Autocratic Leadership, Autocratic Leadership Meaning.” The Economic Times. Accessed November 4, 2020. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/definition/autocratic-leadership.

[2] Doyle, Alison. “Top 10 Best Jobs for Women Over 50.” The Balance Careers. Accessed November 4, 2020. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/best-jobs-for-women-over-50-4165332.

[3] Mueller, Steve. “How to Deal with Autocratic Leadership.” Planet of Success, February 7, 2020. http://www.planetofsuccess.com/blog/2010/how-to-deal-with-autocratic-leadership/.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Sharon R Hill