There are three basic styles of leadership a person can use when making decisions and leading subordinates. The three types are authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire. The authoritarian style of leadership is much like a dictatorship in which the leader makes all the decisions without consulting with the subordinates or other leaders. Authoritarian leaders are sometimes called micromanagers because they dictate how a job is to be done expect no deviation from their plan, even if there is a faster or better way to do it. An authoritarian leader also tends to be more critical of their staff.
A democratic style of leadership is opposite of authoritarian. A democratic leader encourages group participation in the decision making process from his/her subordinates. These leaders believe in seeking input from their staff to draw on the broadest base of resources to get the best results possible. A democratic leader believes in giving staff responsibility and shows confidence in their work knowledge. This style of leadership means less actual managing of staff because you are empowering the employee.
The third style of leadership is the laissez-faire attitude. This style is more of a passive approach by the leader and they tend to take a “hands off” approach to staff. They don’t participate in the decision making process and tend to depend on the group to come up with their own decisions. This type of leader is also not involved in criticizing or praising their subordinates.
In the case of a London police chief, he used an authoritarian style of leadership. He made the immediate decision to search all persons getting on and off the train without consulting with his subordinate leaders and officers first to see if there might be a better way to provide the security of the train system. I normally call this a “knee jerk reaction” to a security situation. This means that as soon as something bad happens, an authoritarian leader will make an immediate decision to do something to prevent the same thing from occurring again without first getting all the facts about how the bad situation happened in the first place. The problem with this type of decision making is that without all the facts of the situation you will never know if this situation was really preventable or not. The terrorists can circumvent our security practices even though we have many in place. If they want to do a terrorist attack, they will. No security is 100% effective. I think the London chief should have consulted his subordinate leaders and his superiors on how they would like the situation handled and come up with a plan of action rather than infringe on civilians personal rights. This decision will also cause either many officers to pull overtime to cover this extra duty or pull officers from their regular duties to accomplish this task. More thought needs to be put into the manpower issue.
Swanson, Territo & Taylor (2008). Police Administration: Structures, Processes and Behavior. (7th edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson, Prentice Hall.