A dictatorial leader doesn’t work


Why being a dictatorial leader doesn’t work. For some entrepreneurs, leadership means getting people to do what you want – regardless of method. Sometimes, a culture of fear of consequences can be created by a dictatorial leader. Whilst this is a technique that may work short-term, businesses that employ this method of leadership may experience a high level of absence and a significant turnover of staff.

I’ve seen it in person. Team members experienced frustration, isolation, and lack of autonomy leading to lack of confidence. Dictatorial leaders will make all the decisions, and struggle to take the opinions of their team members on board. Eventually, those team members will lack creativity when it comes to new opportunities and finding solutions. The lack of morale and motivation was palpable – and led to high turnover. The impact on me personally was for me to consciously choose to never be a dictatorial leader. 

There is a belief for some, that taking a more inclusive and collaborative approach will create a lack of respect, but in fact, looking after your team and leading by example is more effective and enables your employees to see you as somebody who is fair and approachable. It also models behaviour that a leader wants to see throughout their whole team. Patrick Lencioni’s model ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ demonstrates that vulnerability, showing weakness, and listening to others is vital for building trust and team cohesion. 

There are a number of ways that people can be great leaders without being tyrannical. As the founder of Sovereign Beverage Company, I have been managing people for the past 15 years and I tend to use a transformational leadership style as it suits a fast moving and growing SME business and it also fits with my personality. I’ve made some mistakes, but I have also learned some important lessons about leadership and getting the most out of your team and that’s what I am going to share.

Leadership style is fluid

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that your leadership style doesn’t need to be set in stone. As people grow, learn, read, and see others in power they should have the confidence to flex and change their leadership in a way that works for them and their business. Leadership style might also adapt and change depending on the personalities of your team members and how they interact as a group. 


Practise active listening. Encouraging your team to put forward suggestions with confidence is one thing, but modelling active listening when they do so will demonstrate that you value their input, even if you don’t implement it.  

Demonstrate vulnerability

Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room. Let your team take the lead, and if you have a weakness or make a mistake, take ownership of it. This will build a more collaborative environment and help your team to embrace a culture of honesty and trust. 

Develop change management skills

It’s also about having the confidence to manage change within your business. By nature, people don’t like change as it represents uncertainty and threat. One thing a strong leader is good at is acknowledging that and also having the ability to help their team embrace change. This can be done by explaining things, asking for feedback about the changes and getting people excited about the journey and what the change can mean for everybody.


Closely linked to trust – show your team that you trust them and their skills by delegating. You have your role as leader in order to lead, not to do all the individual jobs. Allow team members to focus on their zone of genius, which in turn will empower them and build job satisfaction. 

Finally, remember a great leader should treat people as they’d want to be treated themselves. At Sovereign that means everybody works from home, gets time off to do charity work and everybody gets a paid half day off each month to do with whatever they wish. Work-life balance is important to me, therefore it’s important to me that my team gets it. 

I make sure I advocate this to the team as there is only so far an individual can take a business, so my team is one that has autonomy, accountability and gets recognition for it. I have a five-year vision that the team is aligned with, and everybody knows what their role is in achieving the vision and how important they are in us achieving our goals.

A leader can’t go wrong if they adopt a ‘we are all in it together attitude’.  If your business is run in a way that reflects that, your company will reap the rewards which include hard work, dedication, mutual respect, and a team that are all focused on the same end goal, making your business the best it can be.

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David Davies (44) grew up in Lytham St Annes, and he knew from a very early age he wanted to be an entrepreneur. From the age of six he was working in his father’s business during school holidays, developing his work ethic and learning the logistics industry. He continued this journey throughout school and university, studying business and finance. Sovereign Beverage Company Limited first sparked into life in 2007, when David set out his '10 commandments' for starting a business. At the time he was working as an Account Manager and identified that there was a gap in the supply chain for the exporting of UK beer. It was during the 2008 recession that Sovereign Beverage Company Ltd officially launched, working with key suppliers such as Marstons Brewery and Batemans, exporting their premium craft beers abroad. Since then, Sovereign Beverage Company Ltd has increased its annual sales by over 10,000% (in litres sold), expanded to a full-time team of ten, and has become the UK's leading exporter of premium beverages, with over 12 million pints sold annually worldwide in 2022.