Bureaucracy is one of the pillars of democracy. It is about governing societies with specific rules and regulations. The system is associated with controlling a country, company, or organization by providing several laws and rules which the members of it need to abide by.
As the term bureaucracy came into the world, several philosophers and thinkers began to examine it, which led them to introduce many definitions of bureaucracy.
Thinkers like Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill have evaluated the role of it as part of a functional society.
This is a management system that is utilized by large corporations still today. This leadership can have a massive impact if you have a highly regulated business environment. It is also very useful when used in companies that not require much creativity from members.
What is Bureaucratic Leadership?
In 1947, Max Weber introduced a few leadership styles in the world. Bureaucratic is one of those leadership styles. In French, the word Bureau means an office, and Kratie, which is a Greek word, means the power of.
By combining these two phrases, Bureaucracy came out. Bureaucracy implies the power of the office. Bureaucratic leadership is one of the oldest leadership systems in history.
It is a system with particular rules and regulations based on a framework, although it does not have an excellent reputation all the time. Many people used this leadership as a base to create their kind of model from it.
This system has a significant impact on many companies. Let us understand that as well-
Bureaucratic Leadership for the Businesses
Companies that follow this leadership style always have a very regulative system. Companies with such an order do not require creation or innovation but stability.
They value passionate and hard-working employees. And can be thought of as a style where work is in repeat mode. There is no need to stress your brain for new ideas or something.
Following the same rules, again and again, is what it sums up as. Even though working in such a kind of management seems easy, but it is not that simple. Not only in past years but also today’s date, a lot of corporations run according to the historic leadership system.
Origin & Definition of Bureaucratic Leadership
Max Weber postulated this leadership style in 1947.
It is a system where employees have to follow specific laws and rules created by the superior authority. Also, it can be said that it is a system of a set of leaders that function on official regulations fixed by higher authorities.
Teams and departments of various private and public divisions hire this system of management. This leadership system focuses on the administrative need of an organization. It is mostly used in the public sector, and it adheres to the rules and regulations to get the results.
This system is quite different from other types of leadership. In this leadership, each leader has separate powers in their jurisdiction. Flexible laws aren’t entertained. Instead, they believe in having rigid rules and regulations to govern the citizens of members.
The word Bureaucracy used for the first time in the 18th century by a French economist Jacques Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay. He defined Bureaucracy as an illness in France that bids fair to play havoc with them.
This word had a wrong impression on people until the mid of 19th century.
Now when we talk about Bureaucratic, it has different meanings in different places. Google says bureaucratic means “over-concerned with the procedure at the expense of efficiency and common sense.” Still, on the other hand, The Cambridge dictionary shows “involving complicated rules and processes that make something slow and painful.
The bureaucratic system in the 18th century used an organized administrative system. A bureaucratic system is a problematic system, yet people showed up to define it in many ways.
Lessor no flexibility and initiatives, rapid expansion and rules, and formalities on top- these are the three significant facts of this system. Throughout the decades, the system kept on getting re-formed for betterment as it was and is an essential part of the society.
Example of Bureaucratic Leadership Style
1. Harold Sydney Geneen Bureaucratic Leadership
Harold was a Bureaucratic leader. He was the CEO of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, who made the bureaucratic leadership system work for his organization to become a multinational company.
In his serving days, he ensures that the system is clear to everyone, and there were several teams for the framework which had the right to make small decisions when needed. Harold, as a Bureaucratic Leader, is one of the most prominent good examples of the Bureaucratic Leadership style.
The Bureaucratic leadership system is a structure that relies on a framework. The framework is harder than other leadership systems. There is more than one Bureaucratic leadership theory.
2. Max Weber’s theory of Bureaucratic leadership Style
According to Max Weber’s three legitimate model types, Bureaucracy is the legal-rational authority, and he said Bureaucracy is a traditional form of organizing.
According to Weber’s legal-rational authority power system, it theorizes that the employees under the leader would follow normative rules. Even though bureaucratic leadership was not the best leadership system, but it was an essential part of modernizing society.
The bureaucratic system has two parts, the leader and the laborers working under the leader, where both the parties have to meet the requirements and show their skills to get their job. Several rules and regulations are there.
The whole system keeps on developing by the up-gradation of both divisions.
It is the theory of bureaucratic leadership style by Max Weber t which Robert K. Merton expands later as he pointed out the faults in this system model.
He said that this Style of leadership, the non-flexible behavior, and the division on leader and labor could invite troubles. Other than Max Weber’s, there is another theory about the Style by George Ritzer.
3. McDonaldization Bureaucratic Leadership
The American sociologist George Ritzer came up with an idea to tie the bureaucratic approach with his The McDonaldization Theory.
He said his concept is a process of improving the bureaucratic style Weber theorized. McDonaldization is a way of rationalizing. Merton had a clear focus on factors. He parted them into four parts –
- Predictability – This refers to the fact that a company should always have the same services in every branch. For example, if an organization i.e., McDonald’s have an office in America and another chapter in Japan, both the branches will serve the same to their customers.
- Achieve Objectives – It is to serve customers in minimum time so that each aspect gets to organize and enhance efficiency.
- Calculability – It means customers will receive as much as packets they want from McDonald’s, but there is no guarantee of quality.
- Controlling system – This refers to the leading technology controlling every branch. The thing thought of as a controlling room that controls all the areas attached to it. It is the fourth primary key to McDonaldization. According to these two different parts serving in America and Japan respectively will be connected to the only primary system.
There are more theories about Bureaucratic leadership style, but these are the dominating ones.
Weber’s tenants Bureaucratic Leadership
Weber explained that the bureaucratic system is like a staircase system where there are leaders in the upper stair ruling the labourers working under them. With every step, there is a higher authority for the workers in lower stairs.
The total is a system organized like this. It says that every person working under an organization is well known to the rules and regulations there and has agreed to maintain them. Since the leadership style based on a clear framework, he divided the requirements among six tenants-
1. Strict and Formal hierarchy
An organization guarantees that it works in its way that every group of subordinates is under control of a group of leaders and every group of leaders has another group of higher authority leaders controlling them. And each person is aware of the rules. It is the base of the bureaucratic Style.
2. Controlling the organization through laws
Since the bureaucratic system is a structure that requires great controlling, organization heads set strict rules and regulations. Every person involved in it has to follow the rules. It makes the framework go smoothly means that the subordinates and the leaders must obey their leader.
3. Recruiting workers
In this system, one placed to a position depending upon their skills. Expertise people set to the places of their talent because frameworks need high skills. This rule is applicable not only for laborers but also for choosing the leaders too.
4. Two Missions
This tenant parts into two missions
- Up-focus – in this, the organization serves to higher organizations that can help them to empower.
- In- focus – Improving the insides. In this operation, the organization focuses on what’s beneficial for itself.
5. Impersonal Style
According to this, an organization should work as a team. And its improvement does not rely on a particular person but everyone. This tenant is to make sure that everything works rationally without hurting anyone.
6. Hiring higher authority leaders
Just like the other employees, more senior authority leaders get placed according to their specialized talents, whoever handles a position can will get that position. There is no partiality.
Requirements for Bureaucratic Leader
The leader is the central control of an authority.
So a hard-working person, look for details, has a strong personality and active mind, focused on everything he does, confident and respects his work, and does everything with passion can be the leader.
For a bureaucratic leader, it is vital to pay attention to the job. A leader must focus on his work because several people are working under his governance, and the framework achievements rely on the leader. Any destruction can give a shake to the whole structure.
The person on top of management must be optimistic about him, his work, and the framework of his employees. Confidence is what makes a leader know what is best to achieve more aspects.
If you are not passionate about doing something, you cannot do it that perfectly. A passionate leader is hard-working, strong-minded, and very much focused on his work. A passionate leader leads all his employees to work more efficiently.
Like every other leadership styles, even bureaucratic has both advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Bureaucratic Leadership
- There is no partiality in the structure. The system is an impersonal system where people get the job only if they deserve it, not because of any family or friend connection. With deserving people, a good team brings more benefits to the organization.
- Stability is a plus point in this structure because the system controlled by rules and regulations, which bounds everyone to make good teamwork. And job security makes them focus more on work
- Leaders to help teams maintain consistency work by creating rules. And because of the strict laws, everyone has to work the way they should be.
- Practice makes a man perfect – this phrase fits perfectly with this system because people have to repeat the work again and again. When doing the same thing the same way for a long time, it makes their work more efficient and fast. It helps in providing more services.
- Scalability is another high point about the system. Companies can add a team as many as they want to make a plan successful. They are confident about their Working abilities.
Disadvantages of Bureaucratic Leadership
- A significant drawback of the bureaucratic leadership system is that leaders live in their position until they get a better place. And a subordinate can turn in to the status of a leader only if a leader leaves his post. This chain limits the forward movement.
- The bureaucratic system relies on impersonal relations between employees. Sometimes this could turn out to be a very problematic thing. Suppose an employee needs to take leave for days, and the manager rejects the leave application. After serving at their best, getting such behavior might dishearten to the employee. And lack of support from a company could ruin an environment.
- In this system, employees are busy to serve more products, but when a customer seeks help, they get no response from the company; this could make unsatisfied customers choose another company. Loss of customers is one of the biggest scares for any organization.
- In a bureaucratic leadership style management system, the strict rules and regulations require paperwork for everything, to avoid paperwork subordinates neglect reporting any hazards. They have to wait for approval from all the higher layers, which takes a lot of time. These are the reason employees might leave to join somewhere with a simple management system.
- Employees working under such management styles habituated with repeating their work. Same rules, same work different days. So when any change made in the order, it seems complicated for them to accept it and adjust to the turn.
Top Historical Personalities with Bureaucratic Leadership
The definition states that this style of leadership mostly depends on the framework to support the entire organization and its people. Also, a bureaucratic system can be followed quickly.
A significant number of high profile personalities have also recorded splendid success by following this leadership style. Here, we have mentioned some examples for your convenience.
1. Winston Churchill
Churchill was a Bureaucratic leader during his reign. He leads the victory of Britain in the Second World War as he was the Prime Minister of Britain at that time. He had structured the system to confirm that individuals work as per the task planned.
He showed strength at all levels to carry on with his plans against all the odds. He created such a master plan which helped entire Britain in the victory of world war.
2. Collin Powell
Collin’s leadership was also a bureaucratic leadership that was deeply rooted in the military side. He exhibited rare qualities of a leader which led him to gain a position of general in the US Army and Secretary of the state.
Qualities you need to have to be a Bureaucratic Leader
The most important quality which a leader should possess is that he/she is hardworking. Since the framework emphasizes performance, the leader should be a qualified person- the one who can provide the quality of work and the ability to finish objectives.
The leader should have goals and tasks which should be accomplished. Also, stepping out of the comfort zone is essential. It will enhance the ability of a leader.
Yes, the leader should have much confidence. He should be courageous enough to take risks and have the ability to succeed in it. The leader should possess a sense of purpose.
Commitment is also necessary for achieving the objectives. He should also keep things in control. Not everything can be in control but try to be skilled enough to not deviate from the target.
Pros of Bureaucratic Leadership
1. Nature of bureaucracy
The nature of bureaucracy doesn’t change, which is an advantage as well as a disadvantage (sometimes). As this leadership has a clear and well-defined set of rules, it is easy to form a successful system.
Repeating what was followed before is easy to follow now as well.
Since there isn’t any change in the leadership and their rule, this leadership framework is easily repeatable.
2. Provides Stability
Being stable is crucial for the success of a system. It’s not a good idea to continuously change and keep varying the rules. Before coming into this leadership or system, there are already known criteria that won’t change.
This leadership is adjustable and promotes consistency. There is also stability in job security. And this job security can act as a motivational boost. It helps the subordinates to maintain professionalism.
3. Its processes and established structures
The processes in bureaucratic leadership keep the system steady and running. When the rules are already present, then the decisions are made more comfortable and quicker.
The pre-set procedures and its hierarchical nature ensure that there isn’t any time waste.
Cons of Bureaucratic Leadership Style
1. It is difficult to change
The Bureaucratic leader finds it difficult to adjust to change. The leader has to be rigid; there is no chance of being flexible. The leader here finds it very difficult to change their rules and principles. It will be risky for them to even think of a change.
Also, consider how highly competitive the business environment is becoming. So it is not an effective way which isn’t flexible. So this is not a good idea.
2. Sub-ordinated isn’t expected to make creative decisions
Here it is rare to think of any decision or idea which wasn’t taken before. This leadership diminishes creative thinking as the system for changing the techniques isn’t accepted here. Also, the new idea will require further steps, which will need a long-long step.
Change isn’t that easy; you have to be well-prepared before thinking of a change. Therefore, in this leadership, change isn’t a thing of discussion.
3. Other members aren’t empowered in this leadership
The initial thing is that it doesn’t even empower the subordinates much. Unlike the other leadership style, this is very much leader-oriented. This framework only rewards those who are professional and can abide by the rules.
The members or subordinates aren’t appreciated and empowered. So this makes bureaucratic leadership very less approved.
A structure made of different layers of position working to achieve each aspect is what the Bureaucratic system looks like. Strict rules, regulations, and laws are to make the framework go smoothly.
It is what the Bureaucratic Leadership System sums up.
This system is seen in many companies, even now. The historic Bureaucratic leadership style made a huge impact on how multinational companies work.
In the history of leadership styles, it is an important part. Many leaders unlocked top-level achievements using the Bureaucratic leadership system. It works like an oiled machine, smoothly.
So, this was all about the bureaucratic leadership style. How important do you consider this kind of leadership style for effective business management? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Pinky is an MBA in Marketing from the University of Mumbai. She loves helping people out in learning Marketing and sharing latest ideas and tactics for growing businesses.