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Authority Obedience Management, a.k.a Produce or Perish Management, explained by a CEO

Updated September 23, 2022 by Carl Lindberg

Authority Obedience leadership, also known as Produce or Perish Management, is one of the worst leadership styles available. As a CEO, I would never use the Authority Obedience management style, and I actively avoid hiring leaders who would use it. Learn more about Authority Obedience management in this article and make sure to avoid using it.

What is Authority Obedience Leadership?

Authority Obedience Leadership is when a manager focuses entirely on production to an extreme level while blatantly disregarding any need to focus on people and relationships. Authority Obedience Management is also called Produce or Perish Management, which describes this poor leadership style even better.

Keep on reading to learn more about the background of Authority Obedience Leadership, its explanation, advantages and disadvantages, and last but not least, a few stories about this leadership style from my leadership career.

Authority Obedience Management: Background

In the 1960s, Robert Blake and Jane Mouton built a graphical framework for different attitudes in leadership. Authority Obedience management is part of this managerial grid that involves five different styles of control based on two different types of leadership behaviors, namely concern for people and concern for production.

  • Concern for people involves the well-being, care, and importance given to employees and other human stakeholders.
  • Concern for production involves caring for output, results, and other non-human things.

In essence, we are talking about relationship orientation vs. task orientation, a division that is common in several leadership behavior studies. Refer to our articles on the Ohio State Leadership Studies and the Situational Leadership Model, for instance.

Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid does not include the possibility of switching between styles, making it a behavioral leadership theory rather than a contingency leadership theory.

The other four leadership styles of the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid, besides Authority Obedience, are Impoverished Management, Country Club Management, Middle-of-the-Road Management, and Team Management.

(This background is an excerpt from our article on Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid. I suggest you read the full article and learn more about this framework.)

Authority Obedience Management Explained

Let us first look into the meaning of Authority Obedience and its other name, Produce or Perish.

According to Oxford Languages, the words in the name of this leadership style have the following meanings:

  • Authority: “The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.”, or “a person or organization having political or administrative power and control.”
  • Obedience means: “compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority.”, or “observance of a monastic rule.”
  • Produce: “make or manufacture from components or raw materials.” (Plus four other definitions, but this one suffices for our needs at this point.)
  • Perish means: “die, especially in a violent or sudden way.”, or “suffer complete ruin or destruction.” (Two more definitions, but this one is the literary one.)

Authority Obedience Management hence literally builds on someone having the power to give orders and enforce them, and for others to obey, comply or submit to those orders.

Produce or Perish Management, the other name of this style means to manufacture or be destroyed/ruined.

If the name of Authority Obedience is not too apparent in showing how horrible this leadership style is, then the name Produce or Perish certainly underlines how wrong this management approach is.

The Authority Obedience manager is closely related to the autocratic leader, who uses the behavioral style called Autocratic Leadership. This type of manager gives orders and enforces the execution of those orders. Nothing matters besides output, production, and performance. Employees are resources much like machines, and anyone who succumbs to the pressure can be replaced like wear and tear parts. This is the genuine “When I say jump, you ask how high!” approach to management.

Given this focus on orders, monitoring, ensuring output, etc., this style is a management style and does not even deserve to be referred to as a leadership style in my book since no true leadership is involved whatsoever.

Authority Obedience management leads to low employee engagement, high turnover of personnel, and high productivity in the short-term, but never in the long-term.

The Authority Obedience management style is plotted in Blake and Mouton’s managerial grid in the right bottom corner, with the coordinates of 9,1, great concern for production, and low concern for people.

Authority Obedience Leadership position in the Managerial Grid
Authority Obedience Leadership position in the Managerial Grid

Advantages and Disadvantages of Authority Obedience Leadership

The advantages and disadvantages of Authority Obedience, also known as Produce or Perish Management, are as follows.

Advantages of Authority Obedience Management:

  • High production output
  • Quick decisions since the leader makes all the decisions
  • High clarity of expectations, jobs, and tasks

Disadvantages of Authority Obedience Management:

  • High employee turnover due to the lack of people focus
  • Low initiative, creativity, and engagement among employees
  • If used for a long time, productivity will suffer due to the two disadvantages above

Authority Obedience Management – Examples from a CEO career

Luckily the authority obedience management style is relatively rare, at least in the industries I have worked within. It is even rarer in higher hierarchy levels, which I think builds on middle managers and senior leaders having much less acceptance and tolerance for autocratic behaviors. They tend to be less willing to obey, according to my experience.

Authority Obedience management will only work in low-skilled environments with repetitive processes where orders and instructions can be systematized, pretty much an ideal situation for Scientific Management. It simply will not work if many and frequent exceptions and situations require the leader to come and make decisions since the leader will become a bottleneck preventing the operation of a larger organization. Since employee turnover is high, this management style also needs an environment with a surplus of readily available labor. Even if you have the right environment for authority obedience management, it will still be a poor choice since transactional leadership, bureaucratic leadership, and even autocratic leadership can achieve high production levels without some of the disadvantages authority obedience management brings.

I worked for an authority obedience manager for a few years in my youth, part-time, luckily. It was indeed a low-skilled environment, as described above. We all feared this manager, and we worked hard to stay off his radar. However, he received no loyalty, and no one went the extra mile. We simply kept our heads down and did as told, nothing more, nothing less. Initiative and creativity were lacking, and the authority obedience manager missed out on plenty of ideas enabled by the vast experience of the staff.

Authority Obedience Management: Conclusions

Authority Obedience Management is also, for good reasons, knowns as Produce or Perish Management. It is one of the worst management styles I have ever come across, despite the short-term productivity it can enable. Stay away from this management style. If an autocratic approach is required, use a situational approach such as directive/commanding leadership. It is based on temporary use together with the other five styles of the Daniel Goleman Leadership Styles framework.

You can learn more about the entire framework and the other styles in our articles here: Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid, Impoverished Management, Country Club Management. I also suggest you learn more about how authority-obedience and autocratic leadership can affect your employee motivation: How Autocratic Leadership affects employee motivation and engagement.

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For sources, refer to our article on Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid.

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