Managers practicing coercive leadership take an authoritarian approach to the relationships they form with their direct reports. The foundation of this leadership style is that the manager issues orders, then the direct reports are required to follow them.
A coercive leader will examine a situation. Then they will tell workers what they need to do, how they need to do it, and when the work needs to be done. These leaders expect immediate and absolute compliance at all times. Any order issued should be followed without question.
If a direct report fails to complete a task as assigned or refuses to follow orders, consequences are often swift. Managers using this leadership style often avoid rewards as well, fearing that it could make them seem weaker as a professional.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of the coercive leadership style to consider.
List of the Advantages of Coercive Leadership
1. Coercive leaders know how to get jobs done quickly.
A coercive leader allows for zero excuses within the workplace. If you’re a direct report who has been given an order, then you’re expected to follow through on the assignment. There is no room for the ifs, ands, or buts that other leadership styles may allow for. You either get the job done or you don’t have a job the next day.
2. It creates an immediate boost in productivity.
Coercive leaders provide an outline or vision of the work that needs to be done. Then they expect their key employees to get that work done without question. This process improves the efficiency of most teams once a coercive leader takes over. The improved efficiency typically leads toward improved production as well. This is a good advantage for teams that are underperforming and other options to improve their performance have already been tried.
3. This leadership style can improve workplace safety.
Some organizations go through a time of crisis because of inadequate leadership. Others go through problems because there is a lack of rules, regulations, or procedures that keep workers safe. A coercive leader may be able to solve the first problem, but they definitely solve the second. Although workers will feel less inclined to do work when they’re ordered to do something, this leadership style does increase the safety awareness of the entire team by pointing out specific weaknesses.
4. Coercive leaders eliminate insubordination.
Many teams have one employee who is consistently bending, if not breaking, the rules at work. They might show up for work late or leave work early all the time. They might take a longer lunch break than they are allowed. A coercive leader will not stand for this, and is not afraid to use force to gain compliance. The employee might be threatened with a dock in pay, a loss of benefits, or even be removed from their position entirely.
5. It enforces the current rules to their current standards.
Coercive leaders are also well-read on the rules and regulations which govern their workplace. This allows the leader to issue orders which allow for their team to complete work that meets or exceeds quality standards at all times. That process includes internal rules, which means issues like discrimination or harassment tend to be less likely to happen when a coercive leader is at the helm.
6. Coercive leaders put the best people in the best places.
A coercive leader looks at the strengths each person on their team is able to bring. Then they seek to place these individuals into positions where they can be most effective. In this way, the coercive leader may discard traditions to look for results instead. They’re more concerned about personal experience and skill than having a degree which hangs up on the wall.
List of the Disadvantages of Coercive Leadership
1. Leaders will never become popular.
When using the coercive leadership style, a manager is closer to a military drill sergeant than they are to a managerial roll. Most people do not respond well to such a relationship with their boss, even if the orders being given lead to team success. Most people want to have some level of ownership and creativity within the work that they do. This leadership style rarely allows for such a circumstance to occur.
2. It eliminates diversity and innovation.
There is only one opinion that matters when using the coercive leadership style, and that belongs to the person in charge. People may even be disciplined if they attempt to bring an opinion to any situation, unless they were given permission by the leader to do so in the first place. Although this provides firm control for the leader, it also limits their perspective. Innovation, creativity, and new ideas are rare to find when a coercive leader does not allow for input.
3. There is a higher churn rate with coercive leaders.
For the average worker who reports to a coercive leader, the two most common adjectives they would use to describe their job is that they are overworked and underpaid. A lot can be asked of workers when a coercive leader issues orders demanding strict compliance. Workers who feel like they always get the worst jobs or the most work will usually be the first ones to leave. People who don’t like commands in the workplace will soon follow. This leadership style may be able to promote more productivity, but in terms of pure value, it may also cost the company more cash.
4. It may lead to employee retaliation.
Higher turnover rates are just one response that teams may have to a coercive leader. If a worker feels like the leader is abusing their authority when interacting with them specifically, it may lead to a backlash threat where the worker targets the leader in response. Because coercive leaders are also micromanagers, a response might range from sabotage to physical confrontation.
5. Coercive leaders must be feared to be effective.
The coercive style of leadership only remains effective when the leader is able to carry out the threats of discipline they issue. If there isn’t a way to carry out the threat as stated, then the leader undermines their own position. That will cause their direct reports to stop taking the orders they’ve been given seriously, which then makes the workplace less efficient and productive.
The advantages and disadvantages of coercive leadership reflect a leadership style which demands absolute compliance. If you don’t agree, then your one option is to leave. This creates some benefits, but may come at a cost that is too high for some organizations to pay.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.