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Miriam Webster defines benevolent as “marked by or disposed to doing good,” and Webster’s defines dictator as “one holding complete autocratic control.” An autocrat does not have to be a jerk, and a business is not a democracy. Getting employees to “buy-in” is nice, but if they don’t, what do you do? You run your business in a kind, democratic, and fair fashion, but if that doesn’t work, and on occasion IT WON’T, you need to be a dictator. Please be a benevolent dictator, but be a dictator when needed.
Managing employees is a lot like parenting. Employees may not like what you do, but you have to do it anyway. Many CEOs are afraid to be authoritarian to any extent, even a little, but I will take an authoritarian leader over a democratic one any day. Just because you are authoritarian does not mean you cannot be nice, Remember, it is your name on the door.
Business is no place for a democracy. I advocate that CEOs run their business as a “benevolent dictator” rather than a democracy. As CEO, you may not be liked, but it is your responsibility to steer the ship and be the commander. There is no perfect way to run a company, not yours or mine. However, we all have personality characteristics that get in the way of running our company well. Ask yourself, “Do I run my company democratically because I am afraid of conflict?” Can you honestly say that you ENJOY all your key people having a vote on every issue? Aren’t there times that you just want to tell them to shut up and do what you say? If so, you ARE letting your personal style get in the way of being the best CEO you can be. Being a CEO is not you but you filling a role — you playing a part in a play entitled “Joe Jones runs Company X.” Play the role the best you can with total disregard to your personal style, preferences, or discomfort. You’ll thank me later.