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How can we consider how authoritarian our organisation is?

Here are simple statements that describe an authoritarian approach across each key area of an organisation. By considering how accurately these statements describe your organisation, you can establish to what extent authoritarian practices define the way you work.

Guiding Principles

  • Purpose and values are seen as a fixed entity - they are unlikely to evolve over time
  • Organisational values are determined at the top then communicated to employees
  • There is little trust in employees to decide for themselves


  • Policies are written centrally and we write them for everything
  • Consistency and standardisation is valued over unique, local needs
  • The organisation believes that stronger leadership is the answer to its problems


  • Spending authority rises with seniority
  • Information is tightly controlled by those in the centre and authority
  • We resource difficult human problems, such as restructuring, with outsiders


  • Strategy is set from the top
  • Management decides on what success looks like
  • Management doesn’t like surprises


  • The pursuit of innovation is managed by a particular department
  • If I want to fund an idea there is only one internal funding route
  • There is vested personal interest in maintaining business as usual


  • People at the bottom are measured more than those at the top
  • Personal needs are subservient to the organisation’s
  • People are placed into job descriptions more than roles are built around people


  • Goals and targets are set from above
  • Meetings are dominated by the more senior people in the room
  • Managers decide how employee workload is resourced and reviewed


  • The more physically present I am, the safer my position is
  • Employees don't contribute to office design, layout and decor
  • The more senior you are, the better your working space


  • We see the outside world as something to be competitive more than relational with
  • We don’t absorb responsibility or accountability for externalities
  • We are not seen by outsiders as an organisation that models joy, meaning and freedom
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  1. John Featherby

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