Bureaucratic leadership

Bureaucratic leadership
See also

Bureaucratic leadership is type of management style which heavily rests on the rules and characteristics of bureaucracy. This type of leadership involves:

  • strict rules and procedures regulating duties and responsibilities of every employee
  • material motivation towards achieving measurable objectives
  • strict rules of hierarchy and authority, relatively small role of delegation of responsibilities
  • broad range of IT based controlling techniques and tools
  • well being of staff is of secondary priority to leader
  • communication and information flow strictly formalized
  • formalization as a leading management technique

The meaning of the word bureaucracy is most commonly pejorative, this is due to the negative approach to the 19th century administration, which was working slowly and the cooperation with the officers was difficult. However the bureaucracy had an impact on the societies and many theorists started to study its role in the society. One of them was Max Webber, the German sociologist, who is considered to be the father of the theory of bureaucracy in the area of leadership. His theory says that in the bureaucratic system is structured, the work is divided between the leader and the worker and rules are clearly and strictly specified. The basic requirements of bureaucratic leadership consists of four main elements, such as:

  1. Discipline on the subordinates. It has to be strict, regular and as per the guidelines. The procedures must be detailed and lead the employee by every step of the process. The unit or company should work as a well-structured machine.
  2. Authorization and power for the leader. The hierarchy must be clear and obvious to the employees. Leader is the one who make a decision and workers should not make any decisions, if they are not authorized to. The expectations must be clearly specified.
  3. The authority belongs to the leader and the workers should obey him/her. It mean that the subordinates should not step out of the line and follow the leader's commands. Any derogation is not appropriate and unacceptable.
  4. Company should build clear and structured system of rewards and promotions, which can be granted if an employee perform well, demonstrate good work results. The nature of the reward must be “impersonal”. In other words, the reword is given if the work has been done well, employee contributed the company. The personal development of employee is not taken into account.

Important part of the framework is leader and its qualities and attribute. Leader should be focused on the work results, not that much on people. Should be detail-oriented, know all the procedures and watch if people stick to the guidelines. Any deviation from the described rules is unacceptable. Currently we would name this kind of management and attitude as the micromanagement. Second, leader should work hard to show the highest standards to the team. This is closely linked with the motivation. Third, leader must be task-oriented and strive to achieve the specified and detailed goals. Must schedule the work appropriately, stress the importance of the task/work, set out the standards of work. Fourth point, that is essential to the bureaucratic leader is a strong-mindedness. Leader should act sometimes with an iron hand in order to keep the work on track. Should be confident, courageous and committed. Fifth, leader need to be passionate for the work, but also for accomplishing the described goals.

The bureaucratic style of leadership can be found in the modern business in the areas requiring focus on details, such as chemistry, construction work, work with hazardous materials or large amounts of money, but also in the repeatable work environment.


Author: Magdalena Rewers