Bureaucratic leadership is one of the most prevalent forms of management today. In this lesson, you’ll learn the key concepts of bureaucratic leadership and be provided with some examples of it. You’ll also discover some of its disadvantages.
What Is Bureaucratic Leadership?
Bureaucratic leadership is leadership based upon fixed official duties under a hierarchy of authority, applying a system of rules for management and decision-making. This style of leadership can be advantageous in highly regulated lines of business, and it can be an efficient management style in companies that don’t require much creativity or innovation from employees.
Features of Bureaucratic Leadership
You can break bureaucratic leadership down into several following components:Fixed Official Duties:All administrative and management tasks are broken down into permanent offices that permit clear lines of authority, responsibility and accountability. Let’s use a software company as an example.
The company may be broken down into divisions such as research and development, production, marketing, distribution and administration.Hierarchy of Authority:Positions in the organization are arranged in a hierarchy where lower positions are answerable to and under the supervision of the level above it. In our software company example, employees in the research and development division are supervised by their team supervisors, who are under the control of their department heads.
The department heads are answerable to the vice president of the research and development division. The vice president takes his orders from the CEO, who takes her orders from the board of directors.Technical Expertise:Qualification for bureaucratic leadership is usually based upon the technical expertise required to efficiently and effectively manage the management tasks. In our software company example, the vice president of the research and development division may have a background not only in management but also software engineering.System of Rules:A bureaucratic leader is subject to a system of behavioral rules and technical rules. Behavioral rules define the scope of a manager’s behavior and constrain his conduct, while technical rules control how work is to be performed and how decisions are to be made.
For example, the vice president of research and development of our software company is subject to behavioral rules that only permit him to manage his division. He may not direct the activities of any employee of another division such as the production division. Moreover, he is subject to technical rules that require him to go through a very formalized process when requesting funds for a new project. He is also subject to the company’s employment policies relating to personal conduct.Written Documentation:The organization maintains written records of all rules, decisions and administrative actions. These records will help leaders by taking guidance from the past.
Written records also help with accountability.In our example, the vice president decides that he must let an employee go. He utilizes a document provided by the HR department, records the reasons for the discharge and certifies that he followed all company procedures in discharging the employee. The document is signed by the vice president, the employee is asked to sign it and the document is then stored in the HR filing system.
Disadvantages of Bureaucratic Leadership
Bureaucratic leadership can be an efficient management style, but it’s not without disadvantages.
It is a rigid structure that is not well suited for quick adaptation and organizational transformation. This is particularly problematic in our dynamic and complex world. Bureaucratic leadership also fails to fully utilize all employees because of its top-down nature, which doesn’t usually permit employee participation in decision-making. Thus, innovation and creative decision-making can be severely hindered. Another problem with bureaucratic leadership is that it can be dehumanizing to employees, which may hurt motivation and morale.
Let’s review. Bureaucratic leadership is a common form of management in which leadership is based upon fixed official duties and adherence to a system of rules.
Bureaucratic leadership is fairly well-structured and consists of several components, including leadership defined by fixed official duties under a strict hierarchy of authority, where leaders are selected based on their relevant technical expertise.Leaders are subject to a system of behavioral and technical rules that define the scope of their authority, dictate certain actions and constrain certain actions. Written documentation of leadership actions are often created for a guide to future actions and as a means of maintaining accountability.
After you’ve completed this lesson, you’ll be able to:
- Define bureaucratic leadership
- Describe the components of bureaucratic leadership
- Explain the advantages and disadvantages of this style of leadership