The Fine Line Between Leadership and Authoritarianism


WRITTEN BY: Meher Singh, Amnesty International UofT

Being a leader is an incredibly daunting yet humbling role. The perks are endless: your name shows up as the primary contact person for the club, you have veto power (sometimes), and bunch of other stuff (this list can go on forever). However, being a leader also means maintaining coherence in the exec team, ensuring that no one is overwhelmed, democratic voting, and inspiring teammates. You have to create a balance. You cannot be an authoritarian leader and consolidate power in order to get the job done the way you want it to. But by going into endless discussions as to whether the banner for the fundraiser should be painted white or black and trying to accommodate everyone’s need by painting the banner grey is also not effective. As a leader of Amnesty UofT this year, I have tried to ensure that every member in the club has a voice. Some things I’ve learned to do as a leader is by knowing what not to do. There were times when I was an executive member but my voice was not being heard. I remember wanting to just go home and watch binge watch Friends on Netflix instead.

As a leader there were times when I had to put my foot down on some pending matters, become stricter with deadlines, and make executive decisions. These moments were met with a lot of insecurity. At times I felt like I was being too hard, was becoming a dictator and the type of leader who I personally disliked. When speaking to other leaders of student groups, a lot of them find it difficult to find a balance like me. With practice and feedback from the team, I have found a middle ground that works. I look for signs from the exec to ensure that I’m not pushing into authoritarianism. Signs include a good attendance at meetings, execs cooperating and compromising with one another, execs being open and unapologetic for bringing up dissenting views about a specific issue, and having a tight-knit exec friendship (exec socials are great for this, but that’s a whole other blog topic).

Overall, if you notice your execs are not responding to you and start becoming disinterested, then something might not be right. On the other hand, you are the leader of the club. If things are going downhill, even if it’s not your fault, it’s technically on you. So it makes sense to be strict when necessary and warranted. Remember, with power comes responsibility (Source: Spiderman). What that means is that you’ve got power, use it responsibly. It takes time to adjust when you are a new leader. Be patient with yourself but also with your exec team.

Meher Singh

Amnesty International UofT




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