Paternalistic leaders: Everything you need to know

Paternalistic leaders: Everything you need to know
Last Updated: September 23, 2023

A leader is the one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than the others see, and before the others see.

Leroy Eimes

John Quincy Adams says, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a Leader." Simply put, the ultimate measure of a true leader is how many leaders they have developed, rather than how many followers they have. Leaders have different characteristics even though the goal is the same, to lead. From time immemorial, so many leaders with many different characteristics in terms of their leadership have existed.


Like paternal suggests befitting a father, Paternalistic Leadership is a management style in which a strong authority figure acts as a patriarch or matriarch and treats employees and partners as members of a big extended family. Employees are expected to show loyalty and trust in return and obey the leader.

Billy Paul Ebenezer defines a modern paternalistic leader as a leader who behaves like a \"Conservative Dad.\" This leader assumes to know everything, including what is best for the subordinate and treats them as their child. Like a father who is protective and tries to make out what is best for their child's destiny, so are paternalistic leaders. Paternalistic leadership is predominantly found in Asian countries.


Paternal leaders emphasize education and social skills and go out of their way to create opportunities for staff to improve their business and interpersonal skills. Employees may work harder to finish duties within a set time window to please the parental leader and bring respect to the family. Paternalistic managers pay more attention to their employee's social needs and perspectives. This is the advantage of this managerial style when carried out correctly.


Elements of Paternalistic Leaders

That is, to identify any paternalistic leader, you have to look for these three things.


Autocratic Leadership


Paternalistic leaders have complete control over all decisions and receive little input from the rest of the organization. That is to say, they are more like authoritarian leaders even though they give room for some input from their subordinates. Leaders exercise authority over their followers, which means they must obey their superiors. Those who use this leadership style monitor their employees closely and are always the ones to make the final decision. This element ultimately makes paternal leaders bad listeners. Even with them allowing input from others, they rarely use it.


The main characteristics of the autocratic element are:

  • Limited input from stakeholders
  • Highly structured environment.
  • Clearly defined rules and processes.


Benevolent Leadership

"Love People; Use Things; The opposite never works" is the principle here.

Compared to the other two leadership elements in paternalistic leadership, this is the most preferred. It emphasizes the individual and holistic well-being of subordinates personal and social well-being. This element means managers focus on decisions that they deem fit to improve their subordinate's lives; personal and social aspects. The leader uses performance appraisals, rewards, and punishments to maintain control of the subordinates. Subordinates are asked for their thoughts and opinions, and the leader delegates some decision-making authority while maintaining tight policy control.


Characteristics of benevolent leadership are:

  • Seek to create more in the world for everybody, not just for themselves.
  • They are pragmatic, generous at heart


Moral Leadership

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things

- Peter Drucker


Moral leadership refers to a leader's ability to serve as a role model for his followers.


87% of respondents in a survey carried out by ethics and compliance advisory firm LRN (The State of Moral Leadership in Business 2019) said that moral leadership is more critical today than ever before.


Moral leaders show love, respect, treat others fairly, and do not abuse their power. The essential characteristic of moral leadership is that it seeks to serve others rather than be followed. The moral leadership aspect makes paternal leaders care much about the abilities of their team members rather than their abilities. It focuses on setting an example for others about the rightness or wrongness of particular actions.


Characteristics of moral leadership are:

  • Building deep personal connections
  • Ask for and listen to tough feedback
  • Upholding of ethical standards


Main Characteristics of Paternal Leadership


Five core characteristics characterize paternal leaders. To be an effective paternalistic leader, they have to possess these 5 core values.


1. Compassion

This is a state of feeling sympathy, pity, and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Paternalistic leaders are selfless. They care about how others feel and what they go through daily despite place, race, position, or gender. This is an aspect that Wisconsin-Madison Center for Healthy Mind Investigations found to be improved through active compassion meditation.


2. Empowerment

Paternal leaders are empowering leaders. They seek to make the best out of their subordinates more than they seek to do for themselves. They use their position of authority to empower their team members. They focused on getting the best out of their subordinates paternalistically. For famous paternalistic leaders, followers can attain their goals and grow as individuals and professionals.


3. Influence

Influence is the power to make other people agree with your opinions or do what you want. You can sway your subordinates with your wide knowledge or enthral them with your exceptional communication skills. Influence can be displayed in a variety of ways.


Four keys to strengthening your influence are

  • Organizational Intelligence
  • Team Promotion
  • Trust-Building
  • Building Networks


4. Decisiveness

For effectiveness, each paternalistic leader must be a decisive decision-maker. In this role, the ability to make decisions makes paternalistic leaders carry great responsibility. These leaders make decisions based on their best knowledge of particular issues. Since decision-making is entirely in the hands of the leader, they require effective skills and knowledge to make robust decisions.


5. Good Organizational Skills

Since paternalistic leaders focus on developing the abilities of their subordinates and providing necessary resources for their development, they also require effective organizational skills. These encompass a set of capabilities that help a leader plan, prioritize, and achieve their goals.


Examples of Paternalistic Leadership

Paternalistic leadership is mainly practical in 3 areas of leadership.


Executive Leadership

Executives view people as the most significant assets in an organization. At times they can prioritize employee needs over those of investing parties. This will make them make decisions in a paternalistic way to protect their employees.



Under normal circumstances, a government will prioritize its citizens over anything else. So even if there is a large investment looming, the government may turn it down if it does not cater to the citizen's wellness.



People are developed and improved by paternalistic managers who enhance their abilities and provide them with opportunities that match their interests and talents. According to paternalistic leaders throughout history, this is the best approach for a manager to develop into a powerful and devoted employee.


Pros and Cons of Paternalistic Leadership Style



Staff will feel valued and fulfilled if there is an open communication channel between management and employees.

Employees place a greater emphasis on the leader than on the overall work environment. As a result, the team might become quite competitive, with everyone competing for attention and affection.

Managers are aware that they want everyone to succeed, which may reduce competitiveness among staff.

Managers, like parents, are sometimes forced to reprimand staff with ineffective methods.

Employees believe they are heard and their needs are addressed because of high employee loyalty.

Bad decisions from above cause significant staff dissatisfaction.


To close this up, patriarchy is often related to paternalistic leadership. This is a different type of authoritarian rule. Paternalistic leadership is an effective paradigm for improving employee productivity and motivation without jeopardizing employee well-being. In Eastern countries like India and China, this leadership model is valued. The focus here is on an extensive community where the leader is responsible for his subordinates rather than the decision-making system. According to the research, if a paternalistic leader creates a culture of loyalty via his commitment and skill, the style can be helpful to an organization.

Blessmore Ndemo
This article was written by Blessmore a Guest at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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