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Carry on dictating!

FOR MOST of us, coercive leadership almost by definition equals bad leadership. Pause however, to consider `The Prince', in which Machiavelli outlined opportunities associated with powerful leadership. In fact he even went so far as to argue that the only truly bad leadership is weak leadership. He actually admired unscrupulous leaders who exercised power and authority with the proverbial iron fist without the velvet glove!

Right! That was in the fifteenth and sixteenth century and dealt largely with Florentine political intrigue and brutal warfare. Things have not changed much today as both the ways of the world and human psyche remain pretty much unaltered. Hence in the workplace there is an arena of sorts and that wild and savage brute peering over your shoulder and constantly barking instructions, is well, yes, your boss!

So that is your unfriendly workplace dictator-boss. He likes to overlook everything, from the final numbers of the expense report, to how you are sharpening your pencils. (The fact that he may come up with a more effective way of doing the latter had better be left well alone!). He likes the sound of his own voice and when he "opes his mouth, let no dog bark'.

The devil's due

He has a plan for everything and has evidently thought things out

He is organised

He exudes authority and you can't help but listen

And in any case, isn't that the stuff good leaders are made of?

He is generally a good communicator (Remember Hitler?)

He has been there, done this, that and the other

The dark side...

Staff morale suffers

Creativity takes a beating

There are better and newer ways of approaching a problem that he doesn't know about

People tend to leave the company

Get inside his head!

First of all, make an honest attempt to understand the man you love to hate. His behaviour may be just a cover up for his myriad insecurities. He wants to be invincible but is actually rather vulnerable. What you may consider stifling is perhaps his way of getting a job done quickly and efficiently with minimal wastage of time. You certainly won't get the creative leeway you need, but hey, this is a company we are talking about, not an artist's studio. You may argue that people need to be mentored, not managed, but again, that is your idea, not his.

Save that relationship!

If you report to a dictator and are desperately unhappy, try some of these do-it-yourself measures.

Set up regular meetings with him. Pass along some of your better ideas to him and allow him to take the credit. Or better still; make it appear that it was his idea you developed. Carry a pen and a notebook when you meet in his cabin, make copious notes and studiously refer to them when you talk to him, reiterating at judicious intervals what he had earlier said. Develop riffling through the pages into a fine art!

After thus stroking his ego, bring him up to date on the goings on you are connected with. This is the time to innocently slip in some problem that you are currently facing and seek his opinion on it. You can later marvel at the ease with which it was solved. When he is in this mellow mood it will be eminently possible for both of you to `reason together'.

Invite him for a home cooked meal. You will be pleasantly surprised when he accepts quite readily. Remember it is lonely atthe top and even dinosaurs need company.

Above all, resist the temptation to talk back to him. Being rude to your superior has a certain reckless glamour to it, no doubt about that. It at least does not violate the principle of noblesse oblige, whereby the powerful are expected to carry a heavier burden than the rest of us mere labourers. Be extremely polite and coldly formal when you find his behaviour particularly obnoxious. Unless he is terribly obtuse, he will get the message and back off.

The man or the job?

Leadership is not a moral concept. All good leaders are not good people and vice versa. He is there to demonstrate his leadership prowess for which he is eminently qualified and experienced or else he would not have been considered in the first place. His fatal flaw may be dictatorship, but then you are not called upon to sit in judgement against him.

If all else fails and a bad situation is slowly becoming intolerable, do the expected... .quit! Either way, Machiavelli will clap his hands in glee!


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