The Damaging Effects of Coercive Leadership

Coercive leadership has a negative impact on culture. Coercive leadership tends to be command and control. It’s my way or the highway. Perhaps that style worked when it was possible to hold people down and keep them uneducated.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford had great vision when he envisioned a car in every driveway. Herbert Hoover has been credited with the “Car in every driveway and a chicken in every pot” quote. Ford said, “I will build a car for the great multitude”. Ford accomplished many great things including the assembly line which revolutionized manufacturing. He also raised employee pay to $5.00/day which was unheard of in 1914.

Many times leaders also have a dark side. Henry Ford also required workers who signed up for this 5.00/day agreement to subject themselves to intrusive inspections. He established a sociological department to encourage thrift, concern for family, a clean house, and a healthy lifestyle. Everything comes with a price doesn’t it? I’d hate to have an inspector looking over my shoulder and questioning my home cleanliness or whether I should eat those tasty nachos!

Ford also wrote an anti Semitic book called The International Jew. Hitler seemed to admire Ford so much that he had a picture of him on the wall behind his desk in the Brown House. Perhaps Ford’s leadership style was justified by his connection with other totalitarian leaders.

Ford created an inner circle which was hard to penetrate. Perhaps this factor contributed to his rather dictatorial style. He refused any kind of innovation with the Model T. In fact, he said, “the customer can go to hell, he can have any color as long as its black.” He also employed spies and company police to prevent employees from unionization.

So with many leaders, there comes a dark side. The difference between music and noise is the volume to which it gets played. So understand the strengths of your leadership style and learn to turn down the volume when the music has become noisy.

If you need help with establishing a healthy work culture at your company, let’s talk!


About Dale Perryman

Conduct workshops and seminars on leadership, management, and employee development. Founder of Center for Organizational Learning. Co-founder and creator of MyMeetingPro, a suite of apps for iPhone and iPad that create simply effective meetings. Specialties include leading change, meeting facilitation, developing R&D leadership, merger integration, and social media marketing. Enjoy playing poker and stock investing in spare time.