Leading With Authority, part 3: How to Be an Autocrat
Part One in this series introduced the weighty reality that children are image bearers of God and, as such, educators and persons in authority over children must treat them as image bearers. This means there is no such thing as an ordinary day at school.
Part Two laid out a key distinction regarding the location of authority. Simply put, authority rests not with a particular person, but with the office that person occupies. A principal, for example, has no authority in herself, but the office of principal holds the authority. Once a person begins operating according to her own impulse and not as one authorized, she forfeits true authority and become an autocrat.
This post addresses how autocracy behaves. So, if you want to be an autocrat, just follow these simple steps!
As a reminder, autocracy is defined as independent or self-derived power.
Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Kim Jong Un—a person operating according to his own impulse is an autocrat.
To bring it into the classroom and make it a little more real–that impulse may even be as simple as yelling, belittling, or doling out some arbitrary punishment in order to bring oneself back to a place of calm (at the expense of the child, to be clear).
Charlotte Mason speaks of the distinction between authority and autocracy in relation to the Centurion who interacts with Jesus in Matthew 8. Jesus possessed all the authority in and under heaven. But he did not leverage against or lord it over people.
The Centurion in Matthew 8 remarked that he too was a man under authority. In other words, he recognized that Jesus did not operate according to his own agenda, enacting seemingly arbitrary regulations and harsh repercussions for disobedience.
If Jesus had been an autocrat, how might he have behaved?
- Resentful (mainly because someone isn’t giving me the respect I–not my office–deserve)
- On the watch for transgressions
- If you work for someone who makes you feel like he’s watching and waiting for you to fail in some way, you are probably working for an autocrat.
- If you as a teacher are watching or waiting for a child to fail in some way, you are probably being an autocrat.
- Swift to take offense
- Are you easily offended?
- As a parent, as a teacher, as a coach, as a school employee—you and I are the adults in the room. And when the kids see us not behaving like adults (which is synonymous with being autocratic and arbitrary) then we are leading them where we don’t want to take them.
- If as an adult you’re easily offended and resort to childishness, you may be an autocrat.
- Are you easily offended?
Another significant behavior of autocracy is the implementation of extensive regulations. A drastic penal code, Mason suggests, is necessary because an autocrat needs everyone else to know where they stand in my presence. And I’ll do whatever is necessary to keep myself in a place of calm and feeling in control.
To wrap it up, if you want to be an autocrat…
- Be impatient with people (think of them more as problems to be fixed or projects to be completed)
- Be resentful (have this thought a lot-“don’t they know who I am”)
- Be on the watch for someone to mess up (see #5)
- Be easily offended (usually a sign of immense insecurity)
- Be heavy on regulations, rules, commandments, and repercussions (because how else can you judge if someone measures up?)
Make these five behaviors the foundation of your leadership and you too can be an A-level Autocrat!