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c suite authoritarian

How to Navigate the C Suite Authoritarian

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We know that we should do it his or her way. We know enough not to speak unless we are asked. The C suite authoritarian is out there. Is there one in your organization?

C suite Authoritarian

They are out there, thriving on the throne. They probably are not guiding the best organizations but they may be guiding one that is reasonably successful.

The C suite authoritarian thrives on a mismanaged and misguided means of power. They typically live by the, “my way or the highway” approach. They are the authority, sometimes in their mind, the only authority. You should listen, or else.

What is missing with the C suite authoritarian, nearly everything except for the flexing of muscle and the motivation caused by fear.

Motivation through fear is almost never a good thing. Motivation through inspiration is the standard to set. The authoritarian lacks this though, leaving the employees feeling forced to participate.

Navigating the Rough Stuff

Navigating the C suite authoritarian can be tricky, but here are a few universal guidelines that may help.

  • Expecting Change. If you are expecting to change the authoritarian, you may face much disappointment. Remember this person typically only see’s things his or her way. They know it to be the best way (in their mind) and you’re not going to change that. Stubborn is a word sometimes used. Don’t expect them to change.
  • Understand Metrics. Most authoritarians are pushing towards some specific metrics. For them, the value of the person typically takes a backseat to the value of the metric. They, by nature, are not really a people person. Results are what matters and the employees are merely a vehicle to get results. Consider focusing as much as possible on metrics.
  • Gain Trust. Probably no one feels lonelier than the authoritarian does. They like it that way, since everyone knows [sarcasm] it is lonely at the top. The authoritarian typically doesn’t trust, that is part of why they command through demands. They also may be a bit paranoid but will deny both. Show them you’ll take the hits and keep on ticking, you’re here for them.

There are so many factors to consider and for the employee who doesn’t know which way the wind will blow today, it is terribly disappointing.

Authoritarians Thrive

Generally speaking the authoritarians thrive in areas where or when unemployment is in their favor.

They often appear in the mom and pop business, or are often present in the largest gig (or only gig) in town. If unemployment is high, there are fewer choices so people put up with it. Still, trust is typically very low in these organizations and turnover and absenteeism are high.

Not surprising, the C suite authoritarian is often the first to complain about a lack of available workforce. Sometimes it is true, sometimes it is the organizations reputation that limits interest.

Your Choice

Long term you typically have two choices. You can leave, or you can lower your expectations and navigate the system. If you navigate carefully and get closer to the top, you may be the shining example, the light in the tunnel, or the hope that the rest of the team needs.

Every great future story of success probably has a chapter about hardship. I have always liked the story where the underdog wins.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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