The case for command-and-control leadership

When times are hard, we want someone to be in charge, but they need to wield their power responsibly, says Stanford professor Deborah Gruenfeld.

by Deborah Gruenfeld

For many years now, management thinkers have sung the praises of a participative approach to leadership, with leaders who are informal, approachable and authentic, and who minimise rather than reinforce hierarchical differences.

By contrast, a top-down, command-and-control approach to wielding power seems old-fashioned, stuffy, and oppressive in many industries and many parts of the world. 

There are many benefits to participative leadership, and much to admire in leaders who play their power down. But in the past couple of months, as we’ve faced a pandemic, the world has flipped and so has what we need from our leaders. Now, more than ever, the world needs strong leaders who are not afraid to embrace their authority and to use their power for good. 

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