Bureaucratic Leadership Style

Bureaucratic Leadership Style

Bureaucratic leadership relies on a clear chain of command and strict regulations. Bureaucratic leadership style is a very decent style for work involving serious safety risks, such as handling toxic substances, moving large objects. The focus is on compliance with rules and laid down procedures to make sure that the group is doing their job correctly and safely. Learn some advantages and disadvantages of this style and situations in which this style could prove to be effective.

What is the Bureaucracy?

The term bureaucracy is referred to a group of non-elected officials within a government or other institution that implements the rules, laws, ideas, and functions of their institution. The term "bureaucracy" was created from the French word bureau, meaning desk or office. Weber describes six bureaucratic values that are vital in obtaining a functioning and self-sufficient business. These six characteristics include imperial positions, rule-governed decision making, professionalism, a chain of command, defined responsibilities, and bounded authority.  Defined responsibility is an important value in bureaucracy and demands that an office or workplace must have fields of specialization in order to diversify the company. Every worker must know the responsibilities of his job in the most intimate detail possible. Further, there must be a stable, defined set of general rules for the employees that they must abide by at all times.

The Bureaucratic Leader:

The bureaucratic leader is very structured and follows the procedures in the letter and spirit as they have been established by the organization. Leaders ensure that all the steps had been followed prior to sending it to the next level of authority. A natural bureaucratic leader will create detailed instructions for other members of a group and will expect the members to follow a close set of standards. Everything is done in an exact, specific way, working "by the book", following rules rigorously. The emphasis is on compliance and it is ensured that their people follow procedures precisely. If it isn't covered by the book, the manager refers to the next level above him or her.

The Bureaucratic Leadership Style:

It is a style that is diffused among a number of departments or people and there is a strictest of rules. This is a classic style of leadership and is used quite a lot in organizations that don’t encourage innovation and change and by leaders who may be insecure and uncertain in what their role may be. This type of leadership has no space to explore new ways to solve problems and is usually slow-paced to ensure approval of the ladders stated by the company. Leaders that try to speed up the process usually lead to frustration and anxiety in the team. Followers/employees operating within a bureaucracy are given very little choice as to how they play their roles and the vast majority of their day-to-day tasks will be governed by the rule book.

Situations where Effective:

  • Employees are performing routine tasks over and over. Bureaucratic leadership is very useful in organizations where employees do routine tasks (as in manufacturing). When the job is routine and doesn’t change over a long period of time, that kind of job generally requires a definite set of safety rules or working guidelines in order to comply with the law.
  • Employees need to understand certain standards or procedures. Following a certain set of standards or procedures ensures the safety of equipment and mankind. Situations where there is a need to ensure safety and/or accuracy. For example where the work environment is dangerous and specific sets of procedures are necessary to ensure safety like chemistry-related jobs that involve working with hazardous material to ensure safety
  • Employees are working with dangerous or delicate equipment that requires a definite set of procedures to operate or when Safety or security training is being conducted
  • Employees are performing tasks that require handling cash. Jobs that involve working with large amounts of money to ensure strict adherence to policies and procedures to avoid loss/pilferage
  • Jobs such as construction work where a defined set of standards can be implemented
  • This approach to leadership is commonly used in uniformed and non-uniformed public services. This type of leader would usually get very successful in working in government roles. Universities, schools, colleges, and government organizations usually require this type of leader in its organizations to ensure quality, increase security, and minimize malpractices.

Situations where Ineffective:

  • Work habits forms that are hard to break, especially if they are no longer useful
  • Employees lose their interest in their jobs and in their fellow workers
  • Employees do only what is expected of them and no more
  • This style is highly ineffective in teams and organizations that rely on flexibility, creativity, or innovation
  • This style does not promote creativity and advancement of skills and knowledge as the success is based on the ability to conform to and uphold rules, rather than qualifications or expertise
  • This style brings down motivation levels and causes resentment as the expertise or advice of followers/team members is not valued in this approach


In conclusion, this leadership style is very effective in certain situations that demand this type of approach as this behavior ensures that the team and tasks are very organized and everything is precisely done as specified or planned. The entire team understands their job profile and expectations and ensures good control over the situation. On the flip slide, this style is not suitable for most of the jobs of the 21st Century where the followers are expected to lead and show creativity and innovation. This leadership style is task-focused and is often met with a wince from a management team and is generally disliked by the followers.

Related Links

You may also like Adaptive Leadership Style | Agile Leadership Style | Appreciative Leadership | Authentic Leadership Style | Authoritarian Leadership Style | Bad Leadership Style | Bureaucratic Leadership Style | Charismatic Leadership | Collaborative Leadership | Crisis Leadership Style | Cross-Cultural Leadership | Democratic Leadership | Directive Leadership Style | Emergent Leadership | Facilitative Leadership | Leadership Styles | Laissez-Faire Leadership | Lean Leadership Approach | Level Five Leadership | Narcissistic Leadership | Narrative Leadership Style | Scientific Management Style
Creation Date Friday, 08 March 2013 Hits 33484

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