I was reading the review of a book recently written by the former CEO of a large software company, in which he described his former boss and virtual founder of the company, as an autocrat - someone who ruled with an iron hand. This former boss brought the company from a staff strength of seven to over 25,000 over a 30 year period, with revenues and profits to match. This may well be true - that the founder was an autocrat. The start-up of an enterprise needs a strong leader with a vision and the ability to inspire others. It is also vital for the leader to build confidence in others that he/she will achieve the goals, and ensure that the followers will be a part of that dream.
There is no time for long discussions, endless and frequent meetings; or too much dissent. There is no time for refinements in the plan, which will make little, or no difference to the results. Sometimes, in the rush and flurry of getting things done, the CEO may even forget niceties - and be brusque and even abrasive. This is referred to as situational leadership - which is a mix of autocratic, democratic, laissez-faire styles, with one style predominating, based on the situation and environment.
There are those among his/her subordinates who may not be able to take this in their stride or with equanimity. There are still others, who have the spark of "entrepreneurship". They would rather quit and work for themselves, than bear any humiliation, or what they think is "humiliation". There are those (few) who have the three main ingredients that enable one to walk out and walk straight - financial, emotional and intellectual independence. They require no support, except those that they choose to have. They are very few. And there are also some who "think" they have three supports - and walk out - to find themselves drowning with a sense of despair.
However, in these situations, there are also those who have followed the rules of "followership" - even though the boss may not have followed all the rules of good leadership. Followership is just as important as leadership. Unfortunately, although there are many programmes being run on leadership, there are very few being run on followership. It is said that you cannot be a good leader, unless you have also been a good follower!
The author, Walter Vieira is a senior management consultant
The views expressed in the columns are that of the authors only