Pros and Cons of Paternalistic Leadership (Plus Definition)

Paternalistic leadership is a managerial approach that involves a dominant authority figure who acts as a patriarch or matriarch and treats employees and partners as though they are members of a large, extended family. In exchange, the leader expects loyalty and trust from employees, as well as obedience.

John Quincy Adams once quipped, “You are a Leader if your deeds inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.” In other words, the true measure of a leader is not how many followers they have, but rather how many other leaders they have inspired. Former US President John Adams implied something similar when he said that a good leader would eventually cause their followers to “become more” like them. A lot of today’s business leaders are “inspirational,” “courageous,” and even “benevolent.” Only a select few, though, go on to wear the “visionary,” “inclusive,” and “change agent” hats as well. For context, much of today’s leadership is “paternalistic” rather than “transformational,” which the young workforce (Gen Z in particular) finds to be crippling.

According to Business Dictionary, paternalistic leadership is a fatherly managerial style in which organizational power is used to protect and control subordinate employees who are expected to be devoted and [unconditionally] obedient. Where the Leader acts like a “Conservative Dad,” this is a more contemporary example of paternalistic leadership. This father believes that he is far more knowledgeable than the child and that the child should avoid taking a particular route in order to reach a specific location. Despite being beneficial, this strategy causes staff underutilization or burnout.

Moreover, paternalistic Leaders are difficult to approach. They may be approachable, but their listening skills are very poor. And even if they do listen, they would never want to hear the bad news or suggestions for improvement. Therefore, in a strange twist, it turns out that the easiest way to determine whether paternalistic leadership exists in a workplace is to simply count the number of employees who have nothing to say. These individuals would far outnumber those who only speak while unable to listen.

Most leadership schools place a strong emphasis on the value of having a vision, integrity, and the capacity for thought and relationship building. Rarely do they stress the value of being a Servant (transformational) Leader, which involves serving others while keeping their interests in mind and eventually stepping aside or walking alongside followers so that they can also follow in their footsteps. Many leaders today are so deeply mired in insecurity that they flatly refuse to delegate or even accept the suggestions of junior staff. While initiatives like “Diversity & Inclusion” have gained a lot of traction, there is also a lot of resistance to including workers who are “young” and who have “differences in opinion and working styles” in the decision-making process.

It is undeniable and justified that young people and women are currently experiencing a strong sense of resentment and anger. Recent memes like “Ok Boomer” and popular movements like “Me Too” have only revealed the paternalistic leadership’s shadowy side. According to a recent Times magazine article, Gen Z is irate, scared, and frustrated. Gen Z appears to hold Gen X accountable for draining the system dry and leaving them high and dry to sort things out on their own. It is a terrible irony that the recent police shooting of the four gang rape suspects in Hyderabad, India—while they were still being held without charges—confirmed the patriarchy’s toxic masculinity culture. At the time, the entire country was protesting against exactly that.

Digital natives, or Generation Z, adore transparency a lot. The young workforce of today is a little perplexed when their Leaders go undercover in an age of information technology where data is easily and freely available. Despite the best intentions and efforts of their Leader, employees are prone to misread the situation or the message in the absence of real-time feedback and ongoing communication. And this occurs when paternalistic leaders, known for their stern silence, tend to think that excessive communication could skew the true message and undermine effective action.

Today’s new campus recruits prefer their Leader to act more like a coach than like their adoring parent. Young professionals today are more worried about their immediate needs being met than they are about their leader’s five-year plan for them. The younger coworkers of today prefer to be recognized solely for their accomplishments rather than wishing for special treatment like a family member. Today’s millennials are motivated less by promotions and pay raises and more by opportunities for autonomy and career development.

Paternalistic Leadership Style, ENGLISH LECTURE + Advantages & disadvantages

Pros of paternalistic leadership

A paternalistic leadership approach frequently contributes to a cordial, friendly workplace where coworkers work to support one another in achieving common goals. You can decide whether to use this managerial strategy in your organization by knowing some of its benefits. Here are some common advantages of paternalistic leadership:

Job satisfaction

Paternal leaders listen to their employees’ feedback and concerns, and they take that information into account when making decisions about the company. These executives make an effort to thank staff members for their contributions to the company. For instance, during team meetings, they might acknowledge an employee’s contribution. Employees feel respected and valued as a result of their behavior, which can increase levels of job satisfaction. When workers are content in their positions, they may be more likely to support the company’s mission and put in more effort to achieve their professional objectives.

High retention

Companies with paternalistic leaders frequently have a large number of long-term employees who want to stay there for the rest of their careers. Because they feel that company leaders are meeting their needs, these workers are motivated by the success of the business. Through their actions, paternal leaders emphasize the wellbeing of their employees. For instance, they might encourage staff to take advantage of their time off because they value having a healthy work-life balance. This type of work environment frequently results in high retention rates and increased employee loyalty, which can enhance a company’s culture and productivity.

Effective communication

Typically, paternal leaders communicate with their staff on a regular basis. They encourage staff to talk to them about any issues at work so they can effectively address them. These business leaders consult their staff before making decisions that will impact the company. Employees who are led in this way frequently feel at ease talking to managers and providing feedback. Leaders who are paternal respect the opinions of their employees and value their contributions. Effective leadership and employee communication can increase openness and trust in the workplace.

Employee motivation

Paternalistic bosses stress the value of lifelong education for workers’ professional development. These leaders frequently give their team members the resources they need, such as additional training or new technology, to succeed in their jobs. Employees are rewarded for their performance in a variety of ways, such as with bonuses or raises. These leaders may be more likely to promote employees when higher positions become available because they view them as family members. This management approach can inspire staff members to be passionate about their work and push themselves to succeed in their careers.

What is paternalistic leadership?

The goal of paternalistic leadership is to foster a culture where employees see each other as family by acting as a parent figure for them. Paternal leaders make decisions with the interests of their employees as the primary consideration. This kind of manager treats staff with compassion and respect, serving as an example for them within the company. In return, they ask for their employees loyalty and trust. Some key characteristics of this leadership style include:

Cons of paternalistic leadership

Although paternalistic leadership has many advantages in the workplace, there can also be some drawbacks to this management approach. You can decide whether paternalistic leadership is the best choice for your organization by going over these drawbacks. Here are some disadvantages of this leadership style:

Low morale

Employees can provide feedback or input on business decisions in organizations with paternalistic leaders, but they hardly ever take part in the decision-making process themselves. Decisions made by paternal leaders that employees may not agree with can raise conflict in the office and lower employee morale. Communicating with staff members to explain the various factors that influence their decisions is beneficial for paternal leaders. These conversations give staff members the chance to ask questions and may increase their sense of involvement in decision-making.

Employee dependence

Employees may depend on paternal leaders for supervision because they typically make all business-related decisions. They might look to paternal leaders for direction in their work-related tasks and request assistance with problems. By setting clear expectations for tasks or projects, paternal leaders can encourage staff to hone their problem-solving abilities. Leaders can encourage employees to be independent by showing trust and confidence in their decisions, even though they may provide feedback or advice. These steps could foster an environment where workers feel empowered to make choices.

Perceptions of imbalance

Employees may occasionally feel that their leaders treat other employees unfairly when they follow a paternalistic leadership style. For instance, if a paternal leader decides to advance one worker to a higher position, other workers might experience resentment or frustration because they think they merited the advancement. By being open and transparent with their staff about their choices, paternal leaders can get past these perceptions. These executives can also guarantee that they treat staff members fairly and with the same degree of respect as everyone else in the company.

Lack of delegation

It might be challenging for paternal leaders to assign tasks to others. Given that they are expected to make the final decisions regarding business-related matters, they may feel it is unfair to request assistance. Employees may begin to wonder whether their leaders can be trusted with important tasks or projects as a result of this lack of delegation. Learning how to assign tasks to other team members can help paternal leaders reduce their workloads and boost productivity. When paternal leaders assign tasks to others, they can also enhance team morale and develop employees’ leadership abilities.


What is an example of paternalistic leadership?

Paternalistic executive leaders may view employees as important stakeholders. As a result, they might put employee needs ahead of investor interests. For instance, a business that offers lifetime employment and makes great efforts to prevent layoffs when a business unit is not profitable

What are the traits of a paternalistic leadership?

The following are the key paternalistic leadership characteristics:
  • Paternalistic leadership aims to make sure that the staff members feel respected and at ease.
  • Solid organizational skills: …
  • Decisiveness: …
  • Confidence: …
  • Influence:

What are the advantages of paternalistic leadership?

Paternalistic leadership is very closely associated with patriarchy. This is another form of authoritarian leadership. Eastern nations like China and India respect this style of leadership.

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