autocratic leadership style authoritarian

Also known as authoritarian leadership, the autocratic leadership style is a leader that usually has most of the power, authority, and responsibility in a situation or in an organization. In this leadership style, decision-making by the team is rare; instead, the team is tasked with implementing the leader’s decisions and choices. The autocratic leader has a clear sense of what they want, and how they want things done.

Do You Actually Know Your Leadership Style? Take the 2 Minute Quiz

The first widely accepted study of leadership styles is credited to American-German Psychologist Dr. Kurt Lewin. Lewin’s articles introducing the concept of authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire leaders appeared in the “American Journal of Sociology” in the 1930s. 

Dr Kurt Lewin

Dr. Kurt Lewin introduced the concept of leadership styles in the 1930s.

The autocratic style was popular for decades but became less accepted in the 1970s when other modern leadership styles emerged. The autocratic leader is now commonly associated with oppressors and dictators.

You may ask the question, “when is the autocratic leadership style most effective and beneficial?” The simple answer is the autocratic leadership style is effective in instances when a quick decision is required, or absolute quality is expected by a team. Today, we find this style used most commonly in manufacturing, the armed forces, high-end restaurants, media companies, and construction work.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Autocratic Leadership

Like the other leadership styles, the autocratic leadership style has a number of variations. At its worst, autocratic leadership can be stifling, overbearing, domineering, and demoralizing. But at its best, the autocratic leader can be liberating for teams who work well with clear guidance or directives. This leadership style can also be a great fit for organizations that previously lack focus or a clear mission. In these cases, the autocratic leader can help teams have a singular focus and clarity with objectives.

How does this leadership style compare with your own style? How does it compare to your manager? Whether you are an autocratic leader, another style, or a combination of styles below are some advantages and disadvantages to the autocratic leadership style to consider:

Pros

  • Effective when decisions must come quickly
  • Helps businesses or projects that may have become stagnant due to poor organization or lack of leadership
  • During stressful situations, autocratic leaders may be more effective in leading a team through to resolution

Cons

  • Potential abuse by powerful personalities
  • Can stifle staff and discourage team creativity
  • Modern teams may not react well to the style
  • May discourage open communication between teams

Yes, there are pros and cons to each of the leadership styles, but understanding the balance is key to being a successful leader. Still unsure about your own style? To learn more about your style as a leader or an aspiring leader, take our short quiz that will give you a sense of your own style. To start the 2-minute leadership style quiz, click here.

Famous Leaders with Autocratic Leadership Style

From rulers of kingdoms to highly-decorated generals, below are a few of the many leaders that have displayed the autocratic leadership style.

  •   U.S. Gen. George C. Patton
  •   U.S. President Richard M. Nixon
  •   Genghis Khan
  •   Napoleon Bonaparte
  •   Billionaire John D. Rockefeller
Icon White in Circle@0.75

RECAP: Autocratic Leadership Style

This leader likes to be in control and the team delivers to the leader’s decisions. This is the leadership style that gets the most flack but there are many situations that call for clear, single-minded decision making, and this is where the autocratic leader thrives. Want to understand more about your own leadership style? Take our quick leadership style quiz now.

Want to know more about other leadership styles? Select one of these links for more comprehensive information about each style: Situational Leadership | Servant Leadership | Democratic Leadership | Supportive Leadership | Transactional Leadership | Laissez-fair Leadership | Transformational Leadership | Charismatic Leadership

9 Must-Have Job Skills You Can Use Anywhere
Articles Personal Growth

9 Must-Have Job Skills You Can Use Anywhere

10 Leadership Styles You Should Know
Leadership Style Articles

10 Leadership Styles You Should Know

The 17 Most Inspirational Videos to Inspire Better Leadership
Articles Video

The 17 Most Inspirational Videos to Inspire Better Leadership

Are the Best Leaders Born or Made?
Career Articles

Are the Best Leaders Born or Made?

The 12 Podcasts Every Good Leader Should Subscribe To
Articles Podcast Research

The 12 Podcasts Every Good Leader Should Subscribe To

5 Character Traits of Great Leaders?
Personal Growth Articles

5 Character Traits of Great Leaders?

11 Books Every Great Leader Should Read (or Return To)
Research Articles Books

11 Books Every Great Leader Should Read (or Return To)

What is the Situational Leadership Style?
Leadership Style

What is the Situational Leadership Style?

What is the Servant Leadership Style?
Leadership Style

What is the Servant Leadership Style?

What is the Democratic Leadership Style?
Leadership Style

What is the Democratic Leadership Style?

What is the Supportive Leadership Style?
Leadership Style

What is the Supportive Leadership Style?

What is the Transactional Leadership Style?
Leadership Style

What is the Transactional Leadership Style?

What is the Laissez-faire Leadership Style?
Leadership Style

What is the Laissez-faire Leadership Style?

What is the Transformational Leadership Style?
Leadership Style

What is the Transformational Leadership Style?

What is the Charismatic Leadership Style?
Leadership Style

What is the Charismatic Leadership Style?

What is the Autocratic Leadership Style?
Leadership Style

What is the Autocratic Leadership Style?

The 20 Best Quotes from Maya Angelou
Quotes

The 20 Best Quotes from Maya Angelou

29 of the Best Sports Quotes for Leaders
Quotes

29 of the Best Sports Quotes for Leaders

The 40 Best Innovation Quotes for Leaders
Quotes

The 40 Best Innovation Quotes for Leaders

The 40 Best Leadership Quotes
Quotes

The 40 Best Leadership Quotes

POC Principle: The 3 Words that will Change Your Life for the Better
Personal Growth Articles Inspiration

POC Principle: The 3 Words that will Change Your Life for the Better

Your 2020 To-Do List: 10 Things You Can Do to Make This Year Great
Articles Personal Growth

Your 2020 To-Do List: 10 Things You Can Do to Make This Year Great

5 Useful Lessons From History’s Greatest Leaders
Articles

5 Useful Lessons From History’s Greatest Leaders

GOAT: The 10 Greatest Leaders Ever ― Let the Debate Begin
Articles

GOAT: The 10 Greatest Leaders Ever ― Let the Debate Begin