Do dictators make good marketing leaders?

I’ve been following a debate that was prompted by a column in Entrepreneur Magazine by George Cloutier, The Turnaround Ace. The title, “Your Company Is not a Democracy: The most effective leaders are benevolent dictators who hold employees accountable,” sums up his point of view. Here are a few of the more provocative assertions:

  • Let your employees respect but fear you
  • Tell your employees: “Don’t think — obey”
  • The only opinion that counts is that of ownership
  • It’s not your job to dispense praise, affirmation, hugs and cookies to your staff

He does make some good points. Provide clear direction. Reward success. Hold people accountable. Fire poor performers.

A contrary perspective was provide in the post “Biased Justification for Poor Leadership” by Mike Henry. Mike asserts being a tyrant is not being a good leader. “Employees are declaring independence, leaving jobs and going on their own, because of tyrants just like this. If I have to wrangle cats or mow yards for a living, I’d do it to keep from working for another one of these ‘my way or the highway’ types.”

So my question for you is this. Do dictators make good marketing leaders? Do clarity of direction, speed of action, ruthless accountability and dispassionate decision-making outweigh inspiration, collaboration and employee engagement? Which style is most likely to yield positive company outcomes during difficult times? Have you worked with a dictator before? What was your experience? The company’s experience?

Mine was not pleasant! Working in an environment of fear was not productive. The “tyrant” was emotionally unstable, which created a high degree of uncertainty and a desire to get out as soon as possible. Fortunately for me, the “tyrant” was thrown out by the CEO before I had to leave. But the experience made a lasting impact on me.

How about you? What’s your story?