Bureaucratic Leadership

This article is taken from my
Leadership Styles Blog Series 

What Is Bureaucratic Leadership?

Bureaucratic Leadership applies great attention to detail and help to bring control and clarity to situations.

This can be of great benefit to the organisation or team as it ensures quality standards are met and the welfare of the team is maintained.

Bureaucratic leadership is very similar to management rather than leadership as it focuses on the control and performance of work.

The key difference is that bureaucratic leadership is also concerned with the people doing the work as well as the work itself.

Put in another way, the work that is achieved is a result of the leadership of the people doing it.

Bureaucratic leaders follow rules and regulations and are therefore less creative and innovative in their approach to leadership.

They have a job specification to follow and they deliver on it.

For some highly regulated industries with exposure to risk this style of leadership is crucial for success.

They lead by the book and do not stray from their chosen path meaning spontaneity and flexibility can be counter-productive to a bureaucratic leader.

What Are The Key Strengths of Bureaucratic Leadership?

Through consistent routine, bureaucratic leadership ensures all staff know their roles and responsibility and are highly focused on the task at hand.

This can lead to great success in task-focused work situations.

Attention to detail and accountability can be very useful for an organisation, particularly if health and safety, staff welfare and precise product specifications are a priority.

When change is implemented the new processes and procedures will have been tested and checked to ensure risk of failure is minimised and the chance of success is increased.

This precautionary approach to change can be very important in ensuring long-term success as well as minimising short-term issues and associated declines in performance.

What Are The Key Criticisms of Bureaucratic Leadership?

One of the biggest criticisms of this style of leadership is that it does not encourage innovative and creative thinking.

This can be a huge limitation for the leader as it can prevent progress and adaption.

Staff clarity around roles and responsibilities is good however it can cause such clear divides between staff that they will be less likely to work beyond their predetermined boundaries.

This means less thinking outside the box and less collaboration with colleagues.

Staff development is inhibited when working under this style of management.

The majority of work conducted is prescribed and instructional in nature meaning staff are not exposed to problem solving and higher-order thinking.

This will limit staff potential for progression within their existing job roles.

Finally, bureaucratic leadership is typically outcome focused.

While this is not necessarily a bad thing it can sometimes result in a lack of focus on the individuals and teams that are doing the work.

Final Thoughts on Bureaucratic Leadership

There is always a case for bureaucratic leadership in every organisation.

Leaders need to provide clear direction to their staff and it is essential they meet the needs of regulatory and legal bodies.

However, it is important that leaders use this style of leadership sparingly as being overly bureaucratic can inhibit staff innovation and creative thinking.

Bureaucratic Leadership

This can result in de-motivated and unenthused staff members which is the complete opposite to what leadership aims to achieve.

As is the case for any leadership style, it is a case of knowing when and where to use each style to maximise its impact.