What Is Paternalistic Leadership? (With Pros And Cons)

Updated 12 August 2023

Paternalistic or paternal leadership is a management style where a leader treats employees as family members and prioritises their needs while making business decisions. While there can be many advantages to this leadership style, such as increased employee loyalty and retention, it can also present some limitations and drawbacks. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of paternal leadership can help you determine whether this leadership style might be effective in an organisation.

In this article, we define paternalistic leadership, list some advantages and disadvantages of this management style and offer a few tips for improving employee satisfaction while employing this style of management.

What Is Paternalistic Leadership?

Paternalistic leadership or paternal leadership is a managerial approach where a leader acts as a parental figure to create a workplace culture where professionals view each other as family. Paternal leaders consider employees to be key members of a business and make decisions safeguarding their best interests. This type of leader may serve as a role model in an organisation and treat all employees with compassion and respect. In return, they may receive employees' loyalty and trust. Some key characteristics of this leadership style include:

  • Organisation: Paternal leaders use organisational and planning skills to prioritise business objectives and focus on necessary tasks to achieve goals.

  • Decisiveness: These leaders typically request feedback and input from employees but ultimately make final business decisions independently using their decisiveness and critical-thinking skills.

  • Confidence: Leaders who use this management style often inspire confidence from employees, who trust them to make decisions with their well-being in mind.

  • Empowerment: Paternal leaders work to empower employees in their roles and motivate them to continue their professional development by improving skills.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

Advantages Of Paternal Leadership

A paternal leadership approach usually promotes a cordial, friendly environment where colleagues seek to support one another in achieving common objectives. The following are some common benefits of paternal leadership:

Increased job satisfaction

Paternal leaders listen to employees' opinions and consider individual contributions while making business decisions. These managers may make an effort to acknowledge employees for their contributions to a company. Their actions can foster a sense of value and respect, which can lead to high levels of job satisfaction. Employees are more likely to believe in an organisation's mission and put in more effort to achieve their professional goals if they are content with their jobs.

Higher retention rates

Typically, employees of companies with paternal leaders wish to stay with the company throughout their careers. As they believe that the company's executives are taking care of their needs, employees may care more about the company's success. Paternal leaders consistently emphasise the significance of employees' personal welfare. They may, for example, encourage employees to take breaks after hectic work weeks because they understand the benefits of a healthy work-life balance. This type of work environment can improve productivity and typically leads to increased loyalty and high retention rates.

Effective communication

Paternal leaders typically maintain regular and consistent communication with employees. They may encourage employees to talk to them about issues at work so they can successfully resolve them. These leaders may consult employees before making important decisions that may impact the entire workforce of a company. Employees usually feel at ease communicating with supervisors and providing feedback when they feel that management safeguards their interests. Paternal leaders value their employees' contributions and respect their unique perspectives. Effective leadership and communication can increase openness and trust in a workplace.

Related: 12 Communication Benefits For The Workplace (Plus Tips)

Enhanced motivation

Paternal leaders stress the value of lifelong learning as a means of fostering professional development for employees. These leaders usually give employees the resources they require, such as intensive training or technological solutions, to succeed in their positions. Employees may receive bonuses or other forms of compensation as a reward for their success. This management approach can inspire employees to be passionate about their work and push themselves to succeed in their careers.

Related: Why Employee Motivation Is Important: A Complete Guide

Disadvantages Of Paternal Leadership

Although the paternalistic management style has numerous advantages, it also presents some drawbacks. You can decide if paternal leadership is the best choice for a company by considering these disadvantages carefully. The following are some disadvantages of this approach:

Low morale

Employees can provide feedback or opinions on business decisions in organisations with paternalistic leaders, but they may rarely take part in the decision-making process themselves. Morale may decrease when paternal leaders make decisions with which employees disagree. It is advisable for paternal leaders to interact with employees and explain the reasons that influence their choices. These discussions provide employees the chance to ask questions and may increase their sense of involvement in decision-making processes.

Increased dependence

Employees may depend on paternal leaders for guidance because they often make all business-related decisions. They may rely on paternal leaders for direction while performing tasks pertaining to their jobs and for assistance when challenges arise. By setting clear objectives for tasks or projects, paternal leaders can urge employees to develop their problem-solving abilities independently. While providing feedback or suggestions, leaders can encourage employees to be independent by showing trust and confidence in their capabilities.

Perceptions of imbalance

Employees may occasionally feel that leaders treat other employees unfairly when they follow a paternal leadership style. For instance, if a paternal leader decides to promote one employee, other employees may feel dissatisfied or disappointed if they think they deserve the promotion. By being upfront with employees about their choices, paternal leaders can change these perceptions. These leaders can also guarantee that they are treating employees equally and with the same degree of respect throughout all levels of the organisation.

Lack of delegation

Delegating tasks to others may become challenging for paternalistic leaders. When a company expects leaders to make ultimate decisions regarding business-related matters, they might feel that it is unfair to request assistance. Employees may doubt their leaders' ability to entrust them with crucial duties or initiatives because of this lack of delegation. Learning how to assign duties to other team members can help paternal leaders alleviate stress and increase productivity. Paternal leaders can enhance team morale and leadership skills by assigning responsibilities to others.

Related: The Importance Of Delegation Of Authority In Management

Tips For Improving Employee Satisfaction

These are some tips you may consider for improving employee satisfaction in a workplace:

Measure satisfaction

Hold one-on-one meetings with each employee on a regular basis to determine how motivated they are to perform their current duties. You might develop a better understanding of an employee's motivations and how to benefit from them once you receive a detailed response from them. Employees may also use performance reviews as a chance to provide feedback pertaining to different aspects of a work arrangement.

Related: What Is Employee Satisfaction? (With Ways To Improve It)

Create a positive work environment

You can estimate the overall performance of an organisation depending on how its workforce communicates with one another. Encouraging positive behaviour at work is essential for ensuring that employees can address work-related tasks and engage with clients amicably. Incorporate activities that promote engagement, such as events that encourage casual discussion amongst employees.

Include employees in decision-making

Asking employees for feedback on potential areas for improvement is another way to promote inclusivity in a workplace. A project plan can be more successful if managers provide employees with more freedom to decide how to allocate resources, determine priorities and align with organisational goals. As professionals get the opportunity to collaborate with others who are pursuing the same objectives, it gives them the freedom to perform tasks with greater clarity.

Related: How To Demonstrate Leadership Skills At Work: A Guide

Identify opportunities for growth

It is vital that employees receive the training they require for addressing their primary responsibilities. Managers can evaluate whether assigned duties fit with each team member's career objectives and explicitly communicate to individuals that they are interested in seeing professional growth and career advancement. When administrators collaborate with employees to identify skill gaps and areas for improvement, morale and productivity may improve significantly.


Explore more articles

  • What Is A Contingency Plan? (Importance And Example)
  • Guide On How To Determine Brand Objectives (With Definition)
  • How To Create A Career Goals Worksheet (With Template)
  • What Is An MBA In Finance? Scope, Salary And Job Categories
  • What Is A Brand Kit? (With Steps And Tips To Create One)
  • What Is A Talent Management Framework? A Complete Guide
  • What Is A Growth-Share Matrix? (With Benefits And Examples)
  • 10 Best Practices For B2B Cold Calling (With A Template)
  • What Is Attraction Marketing? (With Steps And Benefits)
  • How To Reschedule A Meeting: Template, Example And Tips
  • Job Enrichment: How To Provide It and Its Benefits
  • What Is Warehouse Automation? (With Types And Benefits)