“The difficulty of being an autocrat”- 13 August 2013

The company was going downhill for the past some years. The Board tried various formulae but could not arrive at any credible solution. For, it has assumed that the Big Boss, an employed MD, was indispensable and every reform had to be carried out with him at the centre. And the Big Boss had a very big ego and thought no end of himself. He kept the reins tightly in his hands and did not allow anybody to come anywhere near decision-making. Neither he nor the Board realised that there was a big difficulty in being an autocrat.
But then, Board Chairman’s daughter, who had come visiting from the US, saw the problem clearly and advised her father to change the Big Boss at the first opportunity. “This man is blocking your progress,” she said candidly. The father agreed and said, “He has blocked it already.”
Thus came the big decision. One fine morning, the Board sacked the Big Boss and gave the Chairman executive powers to run the show until a new MD was found.
The Chairman was a wise old man. The first thing he did was to study the method and manner of the Big Boss was shown the door. That man never consulted anyone in the company, took all the decisions himself, and did not listen to any wise counsel. Because he was like that, sections heads, too, did the same thing, and took their own decisions without consulting anybody in their respective sections.
The result was obvious: the company kept going downhill and had come to the bottom of the tolerance pit. The Board could no longer take the nonsense, and therefore the change was effected. The Chairman became the executive boss as well and started changing things slowly but surely. The first thing the Chairman did was to create a standing core committee that would be at work all the time. He saw to it that the core committee members met every day and discussed various issues — from small to big. In no time everybody saw a positive change come over the company.
Of course, the Chairman did not ask for all-encompassing powers for himself. On the contrary, he cut his powers and shared those with the core committee which was the working group of leadership.
The result was more than obvious. Very soon, the participation of the staff in company’s affairs started showing a visible improvement. For, everybody was allowed to take part in decision-making process and make suggestions that could change the very pattern and culture of the company’s internal functioning.
Things did not happen overnight, however. On the contrary, several tense months had to pass before the company started witnessing a little better harmony in the management and the staff.
It was that harmony which the Chairman began cashing upon. The biggest benefit of that little more harmony in the workforce was that the people inside and outside the company started seeing a positive image of the organisation in their own minds. That led to increase in their level of confidence in the company’s fortunes, something that was seriously lacking until then.
In a couple of years, the company started doing better in the marketplace, and the Board was delighted.
So, the Board and the workforce decided to felicitate the Chairman whose position had been expanded to CMD. At the felicitation, however, the Chairman refused to be felicitated. He insisted upon everybody’s felicitation since, he said, everybody had made a significant contribution to the success. “All of you wrote that story, and I don’t want any credit for it. It is your success and let us all enjoy it thoroughly,” he said.
The Chairman’s success was credited to his vision. But he said, “It was my daughter who gave me the first idea of going democratic. Then I allowed that thought to flourish in our company. I realised the higher degree of difficulty in being autocratic. So I chose democracy as our company’s culture.”
The message is loud and clear.

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