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Author: Evan Davis
  • Video
  • 5 minutes

Evan Davis on... alpha male bosses

Updated Friday, 3rd July 2009
After The Bottom Line looked at management styles, Evan Davis asked if the swaggering boss of 1970s sitcoms still exists. Do offices still boast alpha male bosses?

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There’s a popular caricature of the businessman isn’t there? Someone who’s an alpha male, who barks out orders, who’s quite ruthless, who perhaps tells people, “You’re fired.”

Now there’s a popular criticism of that particular style of management and the usual criticism is well it’s not fair on the people underneath you, you don’t need to be like that, it’s bullying, it’s unpleasant, it’s better to inspire people, to be nice to them sometimes than to make them fearful.

In my view that all might be true, I don’t know, perhaps making people scared works, perhaps it doesn’t work. The real problem with the alpha male model of management is the damage it does to the alpha male. The problem is if you’re too authoritarian, if you get away with being too dictatorial, you start becoming deluded.

You see everybody in their job needs to feel they’re accountable to someone, no-one should feel supreme. The day you don’t feel you’re accountable you start losing your judgment. You lose the compass that tells you what judgements are good, which ones are bad. You lose the feedback that you need as a boss to know through other people’s expressions and reactions to things that what you’ve just said is silly or sensible.

So the problem with that alpha male boss is not the damage it does to everyone else, it’s the damage it does to yourself.

That’s my view. You can join the debate on the Open University.


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