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What is Bureaucratic Leadership? Characteristics, Skills, Examples

25th Apr, 2024
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    What is Bureaucratic Leadership? Characteristics, Skills, Examples

    A leader paves the way for people to heed and follow. The right leadership style heavily depends on the leader's personality, ability to motivate others to work towards the greater good, and the art of communicating effectively. Based on these attributes, leadership styles are divided into democratic leadership, autocratic leadership, transformational leadership, bureaucratic leadership, and so on.

    The bureaucratic leadership style follows the written rule of an establishment. It has a mild controversy and comes with a stronghold that promises order and authority. Below, you will learn the meaning of bureaucratic leadership, its history, the advantages and disadvantages of bureaucratic leadership, as well as some of the most well-known bureaucratic leaders. Moreover, many online certification courses thoroughly study the bureaucratic leadership style.

    What is Bureaucracy?

    Bureaucracy appertains to a team of selected individuals after a thorough and long-standing procedure. These officials carry out official matters and execute the order of business, such as policies, laws, and rules. As a result, a bureaucracy has remarkable attributes, like selective authority, professionalism, a strict command hierarchy, a book rule for decision-making, and designated responsibilities.

    What is Bureaucratic Leadership?

    To define bureaucratic leadership in simple terms, it is a leadership style where the leader follows a thorough chain of command, delegates inflexible duties, and bears firm responsibilities with an authoritative hierarchy. Bureaucratic leadership distinguishes itself from other leadership styles with the help of a meticulous professional ranking and governing a chain of rules for management and critical thinking.

    This leadership style bears phenomenal results in heavily administered institutions, large companies, and government sectors. These establishments usually have an unbending work environment and elaborate rules. However, bureaucratic leadership is a slightly debatable leadership style as it leaves no room for creativity and innovation within the management.

    In 1920, German sociologist Max Weber first founded the term bureaucratic leadership after working out the philosophy of the method. The traces of bureaucratic leadership style were apparent after the Industrial Revolution, which gave birth to a strict professional structure and hierarchy of job descriptions and delegation of roles.

    What are the Required Skills for Bureaucratic Leadership?

    The bureaucratic management system often appoints bureaucratic leaders after a thorough examination of their attributes, their professionalism, and their experience with authority in management. Bureaucratic leadership requires a defined set of skills to meet the role's responsibilities.

    1. Exercised Knowledge - Technical expertise is one of the prerequisites of sustainable bureaucratic leadership. It enables the leader to be skillful and constructive in managing others. Officers leading a bureaucracy must have a confident, firm, and dedicated persona that reflects their prowess in the field. For instance, a vice president of a vast establishment responsible for overlooking a research team must have technical knowledge of software and a management background.
    2. Strong-willed and Determined - Bureaucratic administrations demand persistent willpower to execute the institution's professional and ethical work structure. A bureaucratic leader manages a huge team, which makes it necessary for them to be unshakeable. In addition, they must have a high tolerance towards unfavorable conditions, a strong presence of mind, and decision-making abilities.
    3. Hard-working: This leadership style is the toughest of all, requiring hard work, consistency, and an authoritative posture. Both officers and subordinates in a bureaucratic leadership must have a positive approach toward work. The officers should use new delegation strategies, and the assistants must apply their skills to ensure maximum efficiency.

    Characteristics of Bureaucratic Leadership

    Max Weber, the German sociologist and founding father of bureaucratic leadership, had a lot of hold over its defining factors. He knew that this leadership style gives the best results in an organization. He foresaw the transformation of the business into massive factories and large-scale establishments and devised the characteristics of bureaucratic leadership as follows.

    1. Decision-making Hierarchies - One of the strongest characteristics of bureaucratic leadership is its hierarchical structure. Strict rules between officers and employees of different departments back a firm and official hierarchy. This hierarchy ensures a consistent workflow. In addition, the commanding authority passes down the schedule for decision-making, which helps maintain order and effectiveness in a business establishment.
    2. Transactional Relationship - Relationships within the organization stay transactional in the bureaucratic leadership style. It allows employees from different departments to draw a line between professional relationships and personal life.
    3. Role-specific Specialization - A qualified and experienced individual can only perform certain responsibilities in management. The workforce in a particular department must have a thorough understanding and skill on the subject. Thus, the leadership style appoints the correct individual for the specific role.
    4. Career Orientation - Bureaucratic leadership provides job security in the long term. If an individual adheres to all the rules and regulations of the organization and offers impressive performance, their career sees great advancement.
    5. Impersonality - In bureaucratic leadership, the entire workforce directs its cumulative efforts to achieve a common goal. It pays no regard to individual accomplishments but notes the management's overall performance. Other leadership styles pay more attention to creativity and innovation with unanimous votes, but bureaucratic leadership aims to achieve maximum consistency.
    6. Defined Responsibilities - Every individual in a bureaucratic leadership has to follow certain rules and regulations. Officials designate them with responsibilities and a framework for carrying out daily tasks. It ensures a fair understanding of stature and makes individuals well-versed in their job functioning.
    7. Professionalism - Out of all the leadership styles, bureaucratic leadership attains the maximum professionalism with impartial decision-making and a similar approach to all employees. A bureaucracy does not favor one person over the other, regardless of their organizational status.

    Advantages of Bureaucratic Leadership

    Bureaucratic leadership methodizes predictable behavior in the workplace. It analyzes the demands of the customers and serves what they need. Bureaucratic leaders delegate responsibilities to employees keeping in mind the scope of their knowledge. The advantages of bureaucratic leadership are:

    1. Clear roles, Responsibilities, and Expectations - This leadership style has a fixed set of rules and regulations for every position in the organization. It enables the employees to understand their responsibilities and meet expectations.
    2. Job Security - Under bureaucratic leadership, jobs entail adherence to guidelines. If individuals follow the rules and deliver efficient performance, their careers will soar.
    3. Balanced and Unbiased - Bureaucratic leadership is impartial towards its employees. Furthermore, it maintains stability within the organization by treating individuals falling under separate hierarchies fairly.
    4. Division of Labor - This leadership style functions by placing a qualified individual in a particular and assigned role to carry out tasks properly.
    5. Promotes Higher Levels of Creativity - Creativity and innovation in bureaucratic leadership style are left with the authoritative batch. It pushes forward new ideas and strategies for effortless management.
    6. Predictable Form of Leadership - It focuses on consumer behavior and drives a result-oriented approach with zero chance of going wrong because of its predictable nature.
    7. Focus on Past Success - Bureaucratic management refers to projects that helped achieve victory in easy and inexpensive ways, and it puts the same into practice for future goals.
    8. Improves Scalability - Bureaucratic leadership increases the size of an organization by using a wide range of solutions. It also encourages upward growth in the industry.

    Disadvantages of Bureaucratic Leadership 

    Like every other leadership style, there are some disadvantages of bureaucratic leadership too. These mainly center around the regulation and implementation of duties and the lack of an individual's growth in the professional career.

    1. Increasing Productivity Can Be Challenging - A bureaucratic structure thrives on maximum efficiency. But a strict set of responsibilities makes it difficult for employees to find room for more productive behavior.
    2. System Does Not Allow Creative Freedom - In bureaucratic leadership, the task of creativity and innovation is left to higher officials. As a result, it hinders an individual's imagination in the workplace.
    3. Adapting to Change Can be Challenging for Bureaucratic Leaders - Change is very slow in bureaucratic organizations because the leaders are used to performing inflexibly.
    4. Personal or Professional Growth is not Encouraged - An individual fails to attain personal and professional development as they direct their efforts towards achieving a common goal that benefits the business.
    5. Chain of Command Makes Everything Inefficient - The decision-making hierarchy stops the employees from finding new ways to solve a problem.
    6. The system is Based on Quotas - The lack of incentives in the bureaucratic leadership does not allow individuals to work harder.
    7. Decisions are Based on Cost Structure - All the decision-making is carried out keeping production costs in mind.
    8. Not Always the Efficient One - For small-scale organizations and budding companies, bureaucratic leadership does not provide efficiency but obstructs growth.

    Examples of Bureaucratic Leadership

    1. Winston Churchill- Winston Churchill carried out the duties of a UK Prime Minister throughout World War II. Churchill had served in the Army, so he knew how to manage the country during a war. Churchill followed a goal-centered approach where his subordinates knew the structure and responsibilities. Churchill faced many controversies about how he delegated authority, but he was impossible to persuade, making him the most decisive leader of his time.
    2. Collin Powell- Collin Powell is a renowned politician whose leadership style was seen in effect during his time in the military. Powell's remarkable run as a bureaucratic leader presented him with the honor of general in the US Army, and he was also the Secretary of State.
    3. Sinji Sogo (Japanese National Railways)- One of the best bureaucratic leadership examples is set by the 4th President of Japanese National Railways, Sinji Sogo. With his leadership, the country has seen an impressive breakthrough in railway networks. Sogo focused on modernized specialization in the workplace. He set a firm set of rules and guidelines, which resulted in accomplishing the most extraordinary engineering masterpieces in the history of innovation. As a result, Japan's bullet trains are an everyday mode of transport now. Not only that, the industry sees constant improvement, and today it carries over a million travelers daily.
    4. Alfred P Sloan (General Motors)- In 1937, Sloan was the chairman of the board of General Motors. He took management under bureaucratic leadership to new heights by motivating his employees to use their knowledge in creative directions. He was a modern leader with a strong-minded approach to the organization's goals.
    5. Harold Geneen (International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation)- ITT President Harold Geneen achieved a lot of stability and remarkable performance as the organization's Chief Executive Officer. He believed in a strict working pattern and was consistent in his authoritative role. He made sure the company acquired international acclaim.    
    6. Steve Easterbrook (McDonald's)- An establishment as large and stretched out as McDonald's is bound to follow a bureaucratic leadership style. Steve Easterbrook ensured that all business members followed an authority's orders. He demanded very little decision-making but maximum efficiency from employees. It is why McDonald's has a consistent performance throughout its global outlets.


    A company that believes in authority and a firm set of rules and regulations to accomplish success may benefit from the characteristics of bureaucratic leadership. KnowledgeHut online certification course provides a clear insight into the concept. The leadership style ensures maximum efficiency and performance within the workplace and corporately administers decision-making. However, the effectiveness depends upon the overall business scale as it is a leadership style more appropriate for a highly organized establishment.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1What is a bureaucratic leadership style?

    The bureaucratic leadership style is a leadership method that passes down responsibility through a standardized chain of command. It follows a hierarchical system with a strict set of rules.  

    2Why is bureaucratic leadership good?

    Bureaucratic leadership offers customer consistency and pays more attention to the brand's overall reputation rather than innovation.  

    3Where is bureaucratic leadership used?

    Bureaucratic leadership is implemented in a large organization and well-structured business establishment that requires a predefined set of rules for everyone to follow.  

    4What are the qualities of bureaucratic leadership?

    The bureaucratic leadership style has various qualities, such as specialization of duties, having a career-oriented approach towards the job, accurate decision-making within the organization, and impartiality at the workplace.  

    5What is the difference between bureaucratic and autocratic?

    In bureaucratic leadership, the organization or the higher officials make all the decisions and guidelines. While in autocratic leadership, the power of decision-making lies solely with one individual or leader.  


    Abhresh Sugandhi


    Abhresh is specialized as a corporate trainer, He has a decade of experience in technical training blended with virtual webinars and instructor-led session created courses, tutorials, and articles for organizations. He is also the founder of Nikasio.com, which offers multiple services in technical training, project consulting, content development, etc.

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