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spike bullet June 2015 - Leaders vs. Dictators

Comparison between leaders and dictators
Some suggestions for more Leadership and less Dictatorship
Leadership Quiz
Resources (links, books, articles, the lighter side)
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color bulletJune 2015 - Leaders vs. Dictators

The United States was founded by people who were fed up with being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it.  They left their homelands and set out for an unknown wilderness in order to build a new life and, once there, they created a new form of government: democracy.

Democracy is based on a principle that people should have input to decisions that affect their lives.  It sets expectations for leadership behavior.  As we all know, democracy is not a perfect model because people and leaders are not perfect.

The theory of democracy works.  In practice, it takes work for democratic leadership to be effective.  And, the results are far more lasting than the dictator model.  Dictators eventually get deposed, often in a violent manner when people have had enough.

Most people today are far more educated and aware than the ancient serfs who needed a king or lord or dictator to tell them what to do.  Treating people with respect for their abilities and using those for the collective good is a much stronger model than giving orders to people who canít think for themselves.

One of the mistakes many business leaders make is that they forget that people in the United States expect democracy to be the model for many business decisions, not just government decisions.  When they donít see that at work in business, they become suspicious of a leaderís motives instead of paying attention to what is being asked of them.

There is a good TED talk on "How great leaders inspire action" by Simon Sinek at He dwells on the question of "Why" people want to follow a leader not "What" is being offered.

Another big mistake that many business leaders make is that they forget that the people they expect to follow their decisions usually have little insight into how or why decisions were made.  When people donít understand what is behind a decision, they have no motivation to follow it or they follow it with resentment; therefore, they are not completely committed to the results.  They are only doing it because they were told to do, not because they believed it was the right thing to do.

Comparison between leaders and dictators



Make decisions with consideration for the people who are affected by their decisions. Tell people what to do without regard for what the people care about.
Explain their reasons for making decisions and ask for peopleís commitment to their goals. Expect people to follow orders without question.
Watch for and are sensitive to signs that people donít understand what is expected of them. Punish people who donít do exactly what they were told to do.
Encourage people to share feedback about processes, procedures, products, services and decisions. Reinforce their position with more orders.   Feedback is not appreciated and may be punished.
Listen to feedback and make adjustments as needed. Seek to maintain control of the rightness of their position at all times.
Seek to be trusted and respected. Seek to be feared.
Always looking for those better than they are who they can learn from. Afraid of anyone stronger or better than they are.

Some suggestions for more Leadership and less Dictatorship:

  1. Before announcing a change in process or procedures, take a few minutes to put yourself in the place of those who will be receiving the decision.
  2. Will they understand your motivation, why you are making a change and how you came to the decision?  If not, what can you do to explain why you feel this is a good decision and ask for their cooperation, instead of just giving orders.
  3. Ask for feedback from people who will be affected by a decision with questions such as: We want to accomplish xxxx and we think xxxx is the way to do it.  Can you think of a better way we could accomplish that?
  4. Do you have a broad range of advisors that you can draw upon for input before making major changes?  These people can give you valuable insights before you make a decision that turns out less successfully than if you had seen different ways to approach it.
  5. Do you have a good method for collecting feedback from customers and employees about company processes, procedures, products and services?  
  6. Do you regularly review suggestions and implement those that make sense?  Do you have input on those suggestions from those who are responsible for areas affected and those who will be most affected by any change?
  7. Do you reward people who make suggestions that contribute to the success of your business? 

Leadership Quiz

  1. Have you ever made a decision that you thought was right and then wondered why people didnít follow through on what you wanted?
  2. Can you see why they might not have understood what was behind your decision?
  3. What can you do differently to have your decisions more fully implemented?
  4. And/Or, what are you doing now that make your decisions more fully implemented than in the past?  Are you training your managers to use those techniques also?


  Internet Resources

book graphic  Books   -  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.

  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.  Simon Sinek. Portfolio, 2011.  ISBN: 978-1591846444 
  • The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential.  John C. Maxwell.  Center Street, 2013.  ISBN:978-1599953632
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You.  John C. Maxwell.   Thomas Nelson, 2007.  ISBN: 978-0785288374 
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Stephen R. Covey.  Simon & Schuster; New York NY, 2013 ISBN: 978-1451639612 
  • The Power Path: The Shaman's Way to Success in Business and Life.  Jose Stevens.  New World Library, 2002.  ISBN: 1577312171
  • Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Donít.  Simon Sinek.  Portfolio, 2014. ISBN: 978-1591845324
  • The Knight in Rusty Armor, Robert Fisher. Wilshire Book Co; (May 1989) ISBN: 978-0879804213
  • The Leadership Challenge: How to Get Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations, James Kouzes, Barry Posner.  Jossey-Bass, 2012  ISBN: 978-0470651728
  • Income Without a Job: Living Well Without a Paycheck.  Michael Jay Anthony, Barbara J. Taylor., 2008  ISBN-13: 978-0-557-00377-8.  Website:  Tap into your own creativity and use  your full potential.  Learn how to see opportunities that others miss.   

world wide web - articles  Articles

Related newsletter articles:
    November 2001 Ė The Essence of Leadership
    March 2003 - Management / Leadership Styles (updated)
    April 2003 -  Management / Leadership Styles (updated) - continued
    October 1996 - Management Styles
    November 1996 - Management vs. Leadership
    October 2005 - One Thing: Great Management and Leadership
    February 2002 - Mastering People Management
    September 2001 - 9 Fun Things to do in Developing Your Leadership

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side  

The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship, you don't have to waste your time voting.  ... Charles Bukowski

The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy; the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness.  ... Niels Bohr 

I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin."  The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint.  It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps.  In those, we see its final result.  It is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.  Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.  ...  [From the Preface]  C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters 


About our resource links:  We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links.   We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.

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Page updated: October 16, 2023      

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