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Diabolical dictators or capable commanders? An investigation of the differential effects of autocratic leadership on team performance. (2015)

“…autocratic leadership is not always harmful and may at times also facilitate team functioning.”

Annebel H.B. De Hoogh, University of Amsterdam; Lindred L. Greer, Stanford University, California; Deanne N. Den Hartog, University of Amsterdam.

The Leadership Quarterly, 26(5), 687-701.

Scholars and consultants have often criticized autocratic leadership for its demoralizing effect on team climate and thereby on team performance.

However autocratic leadership by definition involves the centralization of power which, depending on the circumstances, can either help or hurt group functioning.

Indeed, evidence exists that autocratic leadership is not always harmful and may at times also facilitate team functioning.

The authors hypothesised that autocratic leadership

  • Can foster team psychological safety when team members accept the hierarchy within the team.
  • However, when members challenge the hierarchy and engage in intra-team power struggles, autocratic leaders’ centralizing power behaviors will clash with team members’ competition for power and frustrate members, impairing psychological safety and performance.

They found support for these proposals in a study of 60 retail outlets (225 employees and their managers) in the financial services industry.

Access the full paper here: Diabolical dictators or capable commanders?

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