The Inverse of ‘Good’ Leadership: A Look at Why Autocratic Rulers are Bad

What is Good Leadership Anyway?

‘Good’ Leadership has been the subject of extensive research as early as the beginning of the 20th century and is perhaps just as extensively talked about now as it was back then. Through many years of academic research, various models and theories have been constructed; none as popular as the Big Five Personality Factors which hails directly from the Trait Approach. The Big Five Personality Factors are listed in the table below:

Neuroticism The tendency to be depressed, anxious, insecure, vulnerable, and hostile
Extraversion The tendency to be sociable and assertive and to have positive energy
Openness The tendency to be informed, creative, insightful, and curious
Agreeableness The tendency to be accepting, conforming, trusting, and nurturing
Conscientiousness The tendency to be thorough, organized, controlled, dependable, and decisive

Source: (Northhouse 2019, Goldberg 1990)

Essentially, Good leadership is comprised of the five factors above–if leader exhibits these traits, it more likely that their followers are happy and they are seeing operational success.

If there’s a Positive, there’s a Negative

Similar to ‘Good’ Leadership, there is also ‘Bad’ leadership–unfortunately not much study or attention has been focused on this side of leadership. Therefore the working model that we’ll be using is one of few theories that attempts to explain the traits that make up a bad leader–this model is known as the Dark-Side Personality Traits. Their characteristics are listed in the table below:

Argumentative Leaders who are suspicious, overly sensitive to criticism, and expect to be mistreated
Interpersonal Insensitivity Leaders who are aloof and unaware of how they come across to others, and have a difficulty putting themselves in “other people’s shoes”
Narcissism Leaders who are overly self-confident, self-centered, and extremely ambitious. They overestimate their abilities, have a strong sense of entitlement, and often hold others in contempt
Fear of Failure Leaders who dread being criticized. They tend to be overly cautious and reluctant decisions-makers. When forced to make decisions, they often impose old solutions to problems, even when it is obvious they will not work
Perfectionism Leaders who are conscientious and methodical but also attend so closely to details that they have trouble setting and maintaining priorities. The maintain extremely high standards and are inflexible
Impulsivity Leaders who are hedonistic and often ignore the feelings of followers when in pursuit of their own pleasure. They enjoy testing limits, may fail to keep promises and commitments, and often neglect to consider the consequences of their actions.

Source: (Dobbs 2019)

What Makes Alejandro Ruz a Bad Leader (Apart from being Authoritarian)

Alejandro was born in and raised in the time oppression in Havana Cuba–he experienced the ruthless abuse of power from the Fuego Baptist regime. As he grew up, he swore that he would changes things for his people–he would fight for freedom and bring his country to glory! Eventually, Alejandro’s opportunity came; he took advantage of the timing and his connection with his fellow compatriots to lead a revolution that would be watched closely by the world.

Alejandro started on the right foot–he had liberated his fellow Cubanos from the Baptist regime and was making strides to correct the wrongs of the past; his plans for social welfare were well on their way….Until he begin to nationalize the sugar industry, which the Cuban economy was sorely dependent on, and began trading with the enemy of the nearby Super Power. Due to Alejandro’s behavior, the United States (justifiably or not) decided to place embargo and sanctions on the country–this nearly wiped Cuba’s economy and created extreme tension among the citizens of Cuba. In a panic to attempt to reconcile power and demonstrate control of the situation, Alejandro began to embark on a shady path of behavior reminiscent to what we mentioned in the section above. Specifically speaking, Alejandro begin to exhibit signs of paranoia (Argumentative Trait) and begin to suspect his citizens of revolt–so in true fashion to autocratic rulers, Alejandro begin to conduct mass trails that resulted in execution and extreme incarceration of “dissidents” (Impulsivity Trait).

Alejandro’s regime did not improve and his need to control his country forced him to switch from Legitimate Power to that of Coercive Power–which is a source of power that dictates that the leader is relying on fear and intimidation to control his followers (Dobbs 2019). Alejandro’s goal to model his country under the values he wanted to see as a kid were impeded by his lack of control of his country; his attempts to maintain power so that he could insure change led to him becoming the very thing he fought a revolution for.

From simple leadership perspective, Alejandro limited his influence and power capabilities to those of coercive power–this type of dynamic does not improve moral nor does it cultivate positive feelings; coercive power leads to tensions among the people which eventually leads to revolt.

References

Amnesty International., (29 November 2016). Fidel Castro: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly. London, UK; Amnesty International. Online Article. Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org.au/fidel-castros-human-rights-legacy-tale-two-worlds/

Bostwick, Sam., (9 September 2019). 10 Facts about Corruption in Cuba. Seattle, WA; The Borgen Project. Online Article. Retrieved from https://borgenproject.org/10-facts-about-corruption-in-cuba/

Dobbs, James., (2019). PSY 532: Lesson 2: The Dark Side of Personality. State College, PA; Pennsylvania State University Canvas platform. Online Course. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2012102/pages/l02-the-dark-side-of-personality?module_item_id=27266417

Dobbs, James., (2019). PSY 532: Lesson 5: Power and Influence. State College, PA; Pennsylvania State University Canvas platform. Online Course. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2012102/pages/l05-taxonomy-of-social-power?module_item_id=27266466

Cawthorne, Nigel., (2012). Tyrants History’s 100 Most Evil Despots & Dictators. New York, NY: Metro Books. Print.

Eaton, Tracey., (26 November 2016). Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s mixed legacy: supporters saw Fidel Castro as a tireless defender of the poor; critics say he drove his country into economic ruin. Doha, Qatar: Al Jazeera English. Online Article. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2016/11/cuba-leader-fidel-castro-dead-90-161126053354637.html

French, John R. P., Raven, Bertram., (1959). The Bases of Social Power. Institute for Social Research. Online Document. Retrieved from http://www.communicationcache.com/uploads/1/0/8/8/10887248/the_bases_of_social_power_-_chapter_20_-_1959.pdf

Goldberg, L.R.,(1990). An Alternative “description of personality”: The Big-Five factor structure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,59, 1216-1229. Print.

Harms, P.D., Spain, Seth M., Hannah, Sean T., (14 May 2011). Leader development and the dark side of personality. The Leadership Quarterly 2011, 1-15. doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2011.04.007

Human Rights Watch., (26 November 2016). Cuba: Fidel Castro’s Record of Repression: Misguided US Embargo Provided Pretext for Abuse. New York, NY; HRW. Online Article. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/11/26/cuba-fidel-castros-record-repression

Northhouse, Peter G., (2019). Leadership: Theory and Practice Eight Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA; SAGE Publications. Print.

Perrottet, Tony., (24 January 2019). When Americans Loved Fidel Castro. New York, NY; New York Times. Online Article. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/24/opinion/cuba-fidel-castro-1959.html

Sullivan, Mark P., (31 August 2006). CRS Report for Congress: Cuba: Issues for the 109th Congress. Washington, D.C.; Congressional Research Service. Online Congressional Report. Retrieved from https://nationalaglawcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/assets/crs/RL32730.pdf

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