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Autocratic leadership

Autocratic leadership’s fundamental principle involves total authority and control over decision making.

The Autocratic style of leadership works under the presumption that “my way is best” in solution finding and store direction.

This motivation for the autocratic person usually comes down to their authority level, or is imbedded in a personality trait.

The opposite of autocratic leadership is democratic leadership. The major characteristic of democratic leadership is when the general majority (along with the leader) decides the direction on any particular decision being made. Retail store managers have a need for both styles running concurrently.

The conundrum some retail stores and businesses find themselves in is being heavier weighted to a certain leadership style.

For example being autocratic in saying “this is the decision on the matter” without debate, at the same time as allowing and encouraging a democratic free thinking attitude from staff to use their own judgment of what the best decision is.

Leaders and store managers must walk a fine line here as they do not want to appear too ridgid, akin to the rules needed for structure and sales, but to allow for a level of ownership thinking to take place. It comes down to using fair judgment and knowing what’s best for the business while accommodating staff and store growth.

Store managers walk a tight rope between these two worlds everyday. Some do it well.

Personality type, self confidence, and belief in your purpose along with your business culture has a great deal to do with how well your staff interact with one another and how leadership traits will impact on staff and customers. Maintaining an autocratic leadership style has its rules to play by if the leader intends to remain in the current role.

The primary consideration being, the leader must have an appreciation for the input of the people working with them.

Staff opinions and suggestions must be taken into consideration even if a decision that doesn’t favor staffs opinion, results. Secondly – If needed or warranted, an explanation on why they are making a certain decision and the consistency of similar future decisions and outcomes must fall in line.

When appreciating the retail management style you have in place now, keep in mind that it indeed can be shifted if you desire.

Strong store managers have the ability to keep staff onside (democratic), while in the next breath making a decision that they may or may not receive team support for (autocratic). There is no right or wrong way to lead or manage your team, only new ways.

Discovering the right formula is a professional journey we all must undertake.

The one unwavering constant seems to be that whatever trait your store managers lean towards, honesty and transparency are trusted and required leadership traits when asking people to follow you into battle. Once we have our troops mentally prepared for battle, we are in a much better position to execute a successful group strategy.

Happy “Leadership” Trading

* Barry Nicolaou is principal of Barlan Consulting. He can be contacted here or at

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