Coercive leadership

Coercive Leadership Style: Its Impact In The Workplace With 5 Examples

Have your manager ever threatened or intimidated you to get things done? Or have you seen a team member depressed and demotivated because of the manager’s aggressive behavior? Such leadership type is coercive and relies on fear, manipulation, and punishment to control team members.

This approach could benefit short-term results, but it can adversely affect the team’s morale, productivity, and well-being.

So, how can you avoid falling into the trap of coercive leadership? What alternative leadership styles prioritize collaboration, communication, and respect? Read this blog by the end to get the answer to all your questions and understand the coercive leadership style.

What Coercive Leadership Style?

Coercive leadership demands immediate compliance from your team members through threats, punishment, and other forms of intimidation. While this style can produce quick results, it can also lead to resentment, low morale, and decreased productivity.

When using coercive leadership, it’s important to communicate your expectations and the consequences of not meeting them. Be firm but also fair and consistent in your approach. Avoid using this style for extended periods, as it can damage your team’s trust in you and their willingness to work towards your goals.

Instead, try incorporating other leadership styles, such as democratic or transformational leadership, which can foster collaboration, innovation, and engagement among your team members. Using a combination of different leadership styles can create a positive and productive work environment for your team.

Coercive power in leadership

With greater responsibility comes greater power; as a manager, you have coercive power, which is your ability to punish or threaten your team members if they don’t comply with your requests or demands.

While coercive power may seem effective in the short term, it can damage your team’s morale and motivation in the long term. Due to this, the team members feel forced, and they may become resentful and disengaged from their work. This leads to lower productivity, increased turnover, and a hostile work environment.

If you rely too heavily on coercive power, it may be time to reevaluate your leadership style. Consider incorporating other types of power, such as referent power (based on charisma and likeability) or expert power (based on your knowledge and expertise). These will help you build positive relationships with your team members and inspire them to work towards your shared goals.

Advantages and disadvantages of the Coercive Style of leadership

As a manager, it’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of different leadership styles, including the coercive style.

Advantages of the coercive style of leadership include:

  1. The coercive style can produce quick results, as team members are expected to comply with your demands immediately.
  2. The use of punishment or threats can make it clear to team members what is expected of them, which can be helpful in high-pressure or emergencies.
  3. The coercive style can be useful when there is a need to maintain order or enforce rules.
However, there are also several disadvantages to the coercive style of leadership:

  1. The use of punishment or threats can decrease team members’ motivation to work towards their shared goals, as they may feel forced to comply.
  2. Team members may resent coercive tactics, leading to low morale and decreased productivity.
  3. The coercive style can stifle creativity and innovation, as team members may be afraid to suggest new ideas or take risks.
  4. Coercion can damage your relationship with your team members, making it harder to work together in the future.
While the coercive leadership style can be useful in certain situations, it should be used cautiously. To be an effective leader, it’s important to incorporate a variety of leadership styles and power sources and to build positive relationships with your team members based on trust and respect.

Types of Coercive Behavior in Leadership

As a manager, it’s important to recognize the different types of coercive behavior that can be present in leadership. Understanding these behaviors can help you avoid them and develop a more effective leadership style.

Here are some common types of coercive behavior in leadership:

  1. Using threats of punishment or adverse consequences to force team members to comply with your demands.
  2. Aggressive or intimidating behavior to control team members.
  3. Bullying team members by making fun of them or singling them out for criticism in front of others.
  4. Making false promises or withholding information to get team members to do what you want.
  5. Monitoring and controlling every aspect of team members’ work leaves them little autonomy or decision-making power.
Recognizing that these coercive behaviors can negatively affect your team’s morale, productivity, and well-being is important. Instead, develop a leadership style based on trust, respect, and collaboration. 

Coercive leadership style

Example of a Coercive Leader: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, was a coercive leader. Jobs was known for his intense and sometimes aggressive leadership style, which included using threats and intimidation to get his team members to meet his high standards.

Jobs was notorious for criticizing and berating employees in public, sometimes even throwing objects at them if he was unhappy with their work. He also had a reputation for micromanaging every aspect of Apple’s products, from the design to the packaging.

While Jobs’ leadership style was effective in some ways, such as driving innovation and producing high-quality products, it also had negative consequences, such as many former Apple employees having spoken out about the stressful and sometimes hostile work environment created by Jobs’ coercive leadership style. This environment led to high turnover rates and decreased morale among employees.

While Jobs is often lauded as a successful leader, his coercive leadership style has advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, managers must recognize this style’s potential drawbacks and consider alternative leadership approaches prioritizing collaboration, communication, and respect.

Examples of Coercive Organizations

As a manager, it’s important to be aware of organizations that use coercive tactics as a means of control. Understanding these organizations can help you avoid similar practices and create a healthier work environment for your team members.

Here are a few examples of coercive organizations:

  1. Cults: Cults use coercive tactics to recruit and retain members, often using fear, manipulation, and isolation to control them. Members may be forced to cut ties with family and friends, follow strict rules and routines, and contribute money or labor to the group.
  2. Authoritarian governments: Authoritarian governments rely on coercion to maintain power, often through force, intimidation, and censorship. Citizens may be subjected to surveillance, arrest, and imprisonment for speaking out against the government or engaging in dissent.
  3. Abusive workplaces: Some workplaces use coercive tactics to control employees, such as threats of termination, micromanagement, and bullying. This can lead to a toxic work environment that harms employees’ mental health and well-being.
  4. Totalitarian organizations: Totalitarian organizations seek complete control over their members’ lives, often using a combination of propaganda, censorship, and forced to maintain their power. Members may be subjected to indoctrination, forced labor, and harsh punishments for disobedience.
As a manager, creating a work environment that values open communication, respect, and collaboration is important. By avoiding coercive tactics and prioritizing the well-being and autonomy of your team members, you can create a positive and productive workplace that benefits everyone involved.


Coercive leadership may benefit in specific short-term scenarios but is not a sustainable leadership style. Practicing this style would lower employee morale, creativity, and productivity far outweigh any short-term gains. Therefore, the leader should not stick to this leadership style. Instead, to create a healthy work environment, leaders should build relationships with their team members, provide clear communication and guidance, and create an environment that fosters growth and development. Sign up for Risely and learn about effective leadership styles you can follow to create better work culture.

Check how strong your micromanagement habits are to avoid a coercive approach.

Micromanagement can harm teams by lowering morale and stealing autonomy. Assess now to save your team.


What is an example of coercive leadership?

An example of coercive leadership is a boss threatening punishment or negative consequences to employees who do not comply with their orders or demands.

Is coercive leadership good?

Coercive leadership is generally not considered good, as it can lead to fear, resentment, and low morale among employees and does not encourage creativity or collaboration.

What are examples of coercive style?

Examples of coercive leadership styles include:
1. Using fear, threats, and punishments to motivate employees.
2. Making demands without explanation.
3. Not valuing employees’ input or opinions.

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