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Leadership in America

Updated on March 3, 2015
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Autocratic LeadershipDemocratic LeadershipLaissez Fair
Autocratic Leadership
Autocratic Leadership
Democratic Leadership
Democratic Leadership
Laissez Fair
Laissez Fair

American Leadership

The three most common types of leadership in America are Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-Faire. There are many examples of those who follow each type of leadership, many of whom are very well known in our culture and who are from both present times and embedded in our history. From examples such as Martha Stewart to Ronald Reagan to Martin Luther, leadership styles in America are a necessity in order for our society to function in the way that it currently does.

Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart

Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership is a type of style where one person dictates what and how the people or employees are supposed to do something. The leader never consults or gets advice from the people, only makes decisions his/herself. Autocratic leadership is one chosen by many leaders who are not liked by the United States, including Saddam Hussein. This type of leadership also applies to Martha Stewart, Howell Raines, and Joe Arpaio.

Martha Stewart is an example of an autocratic leader; she pays great attention to minute details, and also can be very demanding. Using this leadership Martha Stewart has gained mush success, this leadership has helped her build her empire/business. On they mentioned that she might have relied on the autocratic style too much (Money-Zine 2004).

Howell Raines was an Executive Editor of the New York Times from 2001 to 2003. He used an autocratic leadership style when working at the Times, which also helped him when he would "use all the New York Times' resources to cover what he deemed were important stories" (Money-Zine 2004). With this type of leadership style it is sometimes the best when dealing with fast paced businesses and daily deadlines such as Howell Raines did, but it also can cause distress amongst others.

Joe Arpaio is known as “Americas toughest sheriff” and every time Arpaio is re-elected it is with overwhelming numbers (Youtube). His “tent city” is well known for being the most affordable large scale jail in the US. He currently has several civil law suits against him for the harsh jail system. He is quoted saying “it takes more money to feed my dog than it does one of my inmates.” Inmates are also forced to work on his chain gangs in pink uniforms for humiliations sake. Though many appose Arpaio’s “old school” views on justice, many still re-elect. He is living proof that recidivism rates have nothing to do with jail incarceration. With Arpaio’s “get tough on crime” attitude he is most certainly an autocratic leader and in charge.

Saddam Hussein is a great example of an autocratic leader because he was the former dictator of Iraq until he was hanged in 2003 for crimes he had committed. Many think that “Hussein was a symbol of autocracy and cruelty in Iraq” (CNN 2006). For most of his life he was very much involved in the Baath Party in Iraq, and through the party he rose through the ranks and became dictator of Iraq in 1979 when Bakr stepped down from the position. Hussein was responsible for many unnecessary deaths during his years as dictator, and was such an autocratic leader that his people did not have many rights and because of this, he was not well liked at all. His death marked a sort of freedom for Iraqis and was a historical event.

Democratic Leadership

A Democratic leader can also be known as a Participative leader; however, being a democratic leader has nothing to do with the political party, but is a type of leadership style. This type of leadership takes input from everyone within a group. Voting can also take place, but the leader is the one who makes the final decision. This means that the decision is shared between all the group members, making it a longer process overall. This style of leadership is one that many agree with and some examples of a Democratic Leader include Carlos Ghosn, Sebastian Coe, Dwight Eisenhower, and Donald Trump.

Carlos Ghosn- Chief Operations Officer of Nissan
Carlos Ghosn- Chief Operations Officer of Nissan

Carlos Ghosn is a Brazilian born man who became the Chief Operations Officer of Nissan in Japan. Before working at Nissan, he had previous experience by working as an Executive Vice-President at a French auto company named Renault. He showed to have a democratic leadership style when he first started working as the COO. He toured various Nissan plants in Japan and worldwide, and “During his tours, he enquired about the problems faced by employees and the probable solutions that they could offer” (ICMR 2003). His democratic style included asking the employees what they see as the problems, and he wants them all to give him possible solutions in order to have a wide variety to look into. His “group” that he makes decisions with would be the entire company, for anyone who has a plausible solution to a problem. Another example of his democratic style was when he “handpicked 17 people from Renault and gave them exactly 48 hours to decide whether they would like to accompany him to Japan or not” (ICMR 2003). This shows that he wanted to take a group that he felt trust in asking for solutions and ideas, when he was promoted and set to transfer to Japan.

The Lord Coe, known by his real name Sebastian Coe, was a former Olympic athlete who later became the chairman of the London committee that organized the Olympic Games (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2011). An excerpt from a news article by Carly Chynoweth states; “He uses other styles as well, but in his chairmanship of the London Olympic bid we saw a lot of the democratic style,” Yell says. “He was very open to getting other people involved and letting them take the limelight” (Chynoweth 2008). This shows that as a leader, he was willing to let others take credit for their own ideas, since he asked them all specifically for their own views and ideas.

Another example of a democratic leader would be Dwight D. Eisenhower. “As a military leader, Eisenhower was faced with the difficult task of getting the Alliance forces to agree on a common strategy” (Money-Zine 2005). This meant Eisenhower had to perform as a very democratic leader in order to survive World War II since it involved with dealing with so many touchy international affairs. Since the world was in a tuff time, Eisenhower wanted to be sure of any decisions before they were officially made. He worked hard to make sure all were of one mind and understood what was expected of them in each endeavor. Each where also made to feel their opinion was of as much worth as Eisenhower’s as it took a joint effort to lead the troops to victory. Though his efforts and the ability to divide up power the Alliance was able to succeed in their endeavors, something Eisenhower might not have accomplished alone.

Donald Trump is an example of a Democratic Leader and he is recognized as this type of leader by few people because he does not show details of his leadership outside of his company. An associate of the Trump Organization says “Not only is he fair, but he is absolute. When he’s forced to make a decision he thinks about it carefully, and just as he does in the show, Mr. Trump will confer with the appropriate personnel whenever there’s an unproductive or anti-productive issue to be resolved. If he weren’t a successful real estate developer, I think Mr. Trump would make an excellent Supreme Court judge” (Entertainment Magazine 2005). Trump is seen as a hard leader overall, but he also a fair and smart leader.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

The term Laissez-Faire means let the people do as they choose. Thus, a Laissez-Faire leader is someone who holds the position of power, but chooses to often not use it. There is plenty of room and opportunity for employees or followers to make their own decisions and only report to the leader when necessary. Examples of Laissez-Faire leaders include Christy Bregg, Ronald Reagan, and Martin Luther.

Though not always a wise leadership strategy for a boss to adopt, Christy Bregg, (the person in charge of University Printing), has made the Laissez-Faire leadership style work do to issues with deadlines and profit. Under Christy’s employment are eight students in Ferris’ printing program, and she trusts them to make decisions and know what is best to do in sticky situations because they better know the limits of their abilities and the compliance of the machinery.

Being a Laissez-Faire leader means two things; first the leader, “Allows followers to have complete freedom to make decisions concerning the completion of their work or ask questions of the leader”, and second, “The leader provides the followers with the materials they need to accomplish their goals” (Money-Zine). From an interview with two of Christy’s employees, it is apparent she holds both of these traits. When asked “Are you left to work, manage, and motivate yourself?” The answer both of them gave where “usually” and “somewhat” (B. Borninski, personal communication, February 25, 2011).

How things work in University Printing is that the students work at night, and usually, Christy has already gone home. The students follow the job ticket, (if there is one,) but the process on how to complete the job or what precautions should be made are chosen by the students directly. All necessary materials are provided for the work to be done and Christy is always reachable by phone when a large issue comes up that would involve wasting money. Do to the intelligence of the students and the responsibility they feel to work well because of Christy’s trust in them is what makes University Printing succeed.

Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan is another well known Laissez-Faire leader in America. Reagan came into the oval office with a plan much different than most other Presidents. He felt if he brought in a great team then they can manage the work and all he would have to do is oversee from time to time. According to Bass (1974), “His subordinates had free reign to proceed as they thought best” (p. 544), describing how Reagan ran things. Perhaps he felt this way he could see issues before they happen, since he would not be knee deep in paper work, yet sadly his Laissez-Faire approach cause more scandals then successes. Yet, despite his political failures he did not fail in performing Laissez-Faire leadership. Reagan choose people with like goals and beliefs as his own, such as lowering taxes, so that they would all strive for the same goal, yet do it separately. He also believed in giving his council a lot of freedom and leeway because they were more likely more specialized then he and so the performance of those individuals would go up if not micromanaged. Reagan always knew he had the final say but never really used it.

Another example of a Laissez-faire leader is a German priest by the name of Martin Luther who was born in 1483. He is most well known for his thesis that contradicted the catholic churches central power and their selling of indulgences (Ninety-Five Theses 1517). He is also credited for translating the King James Bible and the protestant revolution. When Luther wrote his thesis and several other writings he set up the foundation of how a Christian non-catholic church could and should be run. Although he was responsible for the new revolution he hardly dared become more than an advisor, due to his thoughts on the popes false divinity. He did not even have control of any of the funding and gave the new churches not orders, but guidelines to instruct them how to set up their new place of worship.

Democratic Leadership In Marvel's The Avengers


Bass, Bernard M. (1974). Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, & Material Applications. Retrieved from

Borininski, Brittany. Personal Communication. 25, February 2011. Chynoweth, Carly. (2008, Feb 7). Leaders who put onus on the led: The participative style of leadership puts the players on a par with the coach when it comes to making decisions. The Times. Retrieved from CNN. (2006, December 29). Hussein was a symbol of autocracy, cruelty in Iraq. CNN World. Retrieved from

Encyclopeadia Britannica. (2011). Sebastian Coe. Retrieved from

Entertainment Magazine. (2005 January 24). Donald Trump’s Management and Leadership Style: Trump’s “In-Your-Face” style motivates Leadership. Retrieved from

Fahlbusch, Erwin and Bromiley. Geoffrey, William. The Encyclopedia of Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill, 1999–2003, 1:244 IBS Center for Management Research (ICMR). 2003. Carlos Ghosn- The Turnaround Specialist. Retrieved from

Money-Zine. (2004). Autocratic Leadership. Retrieved from

Money-Zine. (2005). Democratic Leadership. Retrieved from

The Ninty-five Theses ... Wittenberg. (1517, October 31). New York: N.p., 1883. Print. YouTube - Sheriff Joe Arpaio Immigration Policy. YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.


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