Our thoughts

Do you work for a dysfunctional autocrat or an inspiring leader?

Author Antony Williams

Hundreds of books, articles and case studies have been written on leadership in business – but most are written by people, who neither held penultimate leadership roles (i.e., CEOs) nor worked for any truly iconic leaders. So, it isn’t surprising that leadership is a much talked about topic, yet misunderstood by many.

The authors of this post have worked many years for people who actually led their companies from the start-up state to world beating organisations. These leaders include: Richard Branson of Virgin, Larry Ellison of Oracle, Steve Jobs of Apple, John Reed of Citicrop, Sandy Weill of Citigroup and Jack Welch of GE. The authors have also consulted over 100 companies, some of them are SMEs and new start-ups, and came across people who are aspired to lead. Here the authors have identified 15 key traits that distinguish an inspiring leader from a dysfunctional autocrat.

Leader Dysfunctional Autocrat

Direct Double speak

Ethical Self-serving

Inspire Instruct

Visionary Follower

Trustworthy Shifty

Decisive Uncertain

Honest Deceptive

Emotionally intelligent Insensitive

Giving Greedy

Confident Insecure

LearnerKnow it all


Open Secretive

Warm Manipulative

Down to earth Control freak

Dysfunctional autocrats are commonly found in small privately held businesses, who follow practices and procedures from their previous jobs to respond to the changes in the marketplace.They attempt to lead by intimidation, bossing people around, patronising and manipulating – in short, they behave like a bully – and, only the weak follow bullies. At best they get the job done in short-term, make some money only for themselves and move on to the next opportunity. But, most commonly they ruin their companies along with the careers of people who came to work for their companies.

Leaders, by contrast, cope with changes in the market place. In fact, many iconic leaders don’t wait for changes in the marketplace; they initiate changes in the marketplace.  They achieve their vision by motivating and inspiring people around them, moving them in the right direction by appealing to basic but often untapped human needs, values and emotions.

True leaders are very rare to find – now that you know a true leader from a dysfunctional autocrat – ask yourself: who do I work for?