What is Autocratic Leadership? – Definition, Characteristics, and Examples

Organizations seek leaders who have the ability to bring out the best from their subordinates or team members. 

Autocratic leadership may not be much prominent but still, owns a critical place in the range and diversity of leadership styles and methodologies. 

It does have shown tremendous results, especially in driving the short-term ambitious projects, even with non-experienced team members. 

Autocratic leadership does come with miraculous results for a company but it has its own fair shares of downsides. 

More so, it is much more complicated and detailed than that. There are different extensions, versions, or takeaways to learn from the autocratic leadership style. 

So if you are on your way to learning more about the Autocratic leadership style and management, you’ve come to the right place. 

Here we go to explain in detail the autocratic leadership style, its management, application, various aspects, challenges, and much more. 


Definition Of Autocratic Leadership 

The autocratic leadership style is a management style where one individual controls and manages all the decision-making without no or the least taking input from others. 

They act as an authority from their leadership position and primarily account for their decision to be superior or override anyone else. 

It is completely the opposite of the democratic leadership style, where the decisions are made with the inclusion of everyone’s opinions and perspectives. 

Autocratic leaders are driven by their own beliefs and make decisions without including anyone for suggestions or advice. 


Applications Of Autocratic Leadership Style 

  • Autocratic leadership is a form of management or leadership style where a particular member of a group makes decisions on everyone’s behalf.
  • This kind of leadership style is often seen mostly in small businesses with a limited number of employees.
  • The autocratic leadership style is actually highly effective when it comes to applying it in an organization where quick decision-making is required.
  • It also applies very organically with giving great results where a certain nature of work is required depending upon the circumstances or situations.
  • Not just the sole responsibility is in the hands of the autocratic leader but also the entire outcome as well.
  • The autocratic leadership style is often considered to be outdated today, even though flexibility to a certain limit is also a part of this style. 
  • However, the autocratic leadership style is not entirely dead or outdated, as the characteristics can still be found in other leadership forms.
  • Not taking any input or suggestions from the members and deciding on their own is a relatively common practice seen in various leadership styles.
  • Many businesses utilize the characteristics of giving autonomy to employees in their leadership positions as it boosts their morale.
  • Some experts argue that an autocratic leadership style might be more damaging than it will be rewarded on a long-term basis.
  • On a long-term basis, an autocratic leader argued to become a sort of dictator in an organization lowers employees’ morale.
  • Still, one cannot deny the advantages of autocratic leaders, such as quick decision-making process, smooth operation, complete control over the process, etc.
  • Autocratic leadership overall can be impactful and helpful in bringing great results, especially when a business faces a consistent crisis or change.
  • The lack of distribution in leadership and organization structure in autocratic leadership makes the decision-making extremely fast, making it ideal for a company with consistent change. 

How Does Autocratic Leadership Work? 

The Implementation Of Autocratic Leadership 

It is crucial that managers need to be judicial when it comes to selecting autocratic leadership or the respective behaviors. 

The decision merely must be analyzed thoroughly depending upon the type of the company, nature of the work, project requirement, employees, and other dozen factors. 

Autocratic leadership is not a very common or all-time working formula to bring results. 

It works circumstantially. So there can be times when implementing an autocratic leadership or adapting some of its traits can help an organization achieve.

For example, an autocratic leader can be really helpful in times when your employees are uncertain or doubtful about themselves or the project. 


Autocratic Leadership vs Democratic leadership 

According to Fiedler’s contingency theory, the success of an individual and the team is not always and only a function of a particular leadership style. 

It also depends upon the given situation. In general, autocratic leadership is not something most people like. 

Most people want to have democratic leaders in their organization or team.

However, there has been past evidence or research that clearly showed how democratic leaders, even with high morale and satisfaction from their team members, were not necessarily productive or much result-driven. 

In fact, an autocratic leader with an unpopular opinion is able to drive a highly productive team and achieve great results due to their direct authoritarian style. 

Then there is something that lacks autocratic leadership as compared to democratic leadership. 

With autocratic leadership, the reception of subordinates towards their leader becomes detrimental in the success of this kind of leadership. 

For example, employees under autocratic leadership often have low esteem and lack of confidence that impact productivity and, eventually, the project. 

The Positive And Negative Impact Of Autocratic Leadership On Team Performance  

Autocratic leadership style has both positive and negative impacts on the performance of the team members. 

It all depends upon under what circumstances and criterias, the autocratic leadership management is applied to the business. 

It becomes crucial for the team members to accept the hierarchy of the one singular leadership. 

This adaptability is the key to how a team, and their performance, react to autocratic leadership management. 

There are certainly benefits of autocratic leadership as it increases the team performance by giving them a sense of security psychologically. 

In autocratic leadership, employees just have to comply and obey the commands of their leader without really giving it much thought. 

Since they don’t have to take responsibility of the decisions made regarding their work, there is no pressure and burden on it. 

It makes them freer and focused on the exact rudimentary task given to them. 

When Autocratic Leadership Has a Negative Impact On Team Performance? 

Autocratic leadership becomes negative for the performance of the team when the leader is challenged by the team member or members. 

When the hierarchy is not accepted by the team members, it certainly creates a disturbance and conflict negatively affecting the performance and productivity of the workforce in an organization. 

Substitutes With Lack Of Confidence Get Attracted To Autocratic Leaders 

There is one commonly seen phenomenon happening in an autocratic leadership-driven business management model. 

The substitute, subordinates, or team members who lack confidence get attracted to autocratic leaders. 

This happens because these subordinates are doubtful, insecure, or unsure about their abilities. 

They might even do not trust themselves entirely, pulling something off on their own as they are not ready to take responsibility for everything by their own. 

The Confident Employees With Non-Autocratic Leadership  

Quite opposite the case when the employees are confident about their skillset, decision-making, and their role in the organization. 

They tend to have a high sense of duty and strong identity and hence are more supportive to non-autocratic leaders. 

They all work in a democratic environment with team efforts rather than relying entirely on their leader, as seen in autocratic leadership management. 

Under-confident employees often hide behind their autocratic leaders or just find their sense of security in following the given orders. 

And in general, when an organization has such employees, they expect their leaders to be more like autocratic leaders. 

Autocratic Leaderships Often Develop Work Stress In Subordinates  

What happens is when the leaders are pressured to perform or deliver in a very short given time, they tend to adopt the autocratic approach. 

This situation often leads to a work-stress environment with their employees or substitutes. 

The autocratic approach needs to be consciously and strategically applied and not as a result of pressure. 

As it might affect the behavior of the team members as well as the impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the team. 


Characteristics Of Autocratic Leadership Style 

  • Autocratic leaders make the most, if not just all, the decisions in the room, leaving limited or no input from the stakeholders.
  • Autocratic leadership management creates a highly structured work environment with least or no flexibility at all.
  • There are clearly defined and specified roles, rules, and procedures to follow for subordinates without any give and take of ideas.
  • In Autocratic leadership, team members feel that they aren’t trusted enough with a decision to make.
  • Autocratic leaders give a clear line of communication to their subordinates.
  • Such leadership style or management takes little or no input, suggestion, or feedback from the team members.
  • Autocracy in leadership and management for an organization discourages creativity, innovation, and out-of-box thinking.
  • An autocratic leader can or might dictate the operation the way he or she finds fit with their own set of work methods, processes, etc. 

The Misconception Of Autocratic Leadership 

Autocratic leadership exists in the first place because there is a massive need for it to fill the shortcomings of other leadership styles in specific cases. 

This kind of leadership is widely adapted in one way or another in an organization. You can also see certain highlighted traits or qualities adapted by leaders of all kinds. 

So most people think autocratic leadership is more like a form of leadership that exists as an option to pick up. 

Rather it is more like a solution to a certain set of problems that other leadership styles such as democratic leadership cannot resolve. 

When Organizations Adapt And Implement Autocratic Leadership Style? 

To begin with, adapting autocratic leadership is mostly a last resort for any organization. 

It is a plan to implement when the company’s back up against the wall and they still need to drive highly efficient results to keep on. 

You can also say, this kind of leadership is more favorable when the end result becomes more important than the means to do it, for companies. 

The identification of autocratic leadership management is what is known as a solid organized structure within the company with clearly defined roles, specific instructions, and streamlined direction. 

All of this is something, any organization certainly wants, and most of them in fact aim to achieve this whether they call it an autocratic leadership model or not. 

An autocratic leader is able to set up very clear and specific lines of communication to different segments but comes from only focal points. 

But the problem with autocratic leadership is, they aren’t open to communication, especially some sort of feedback, suggestion, or criticism. 

Autocratic leadership is not the kind of leadership that is generally recommended to the organization, at least not the full scope of it. 

Benefits Of Autocratic Leadership Style 

What you gain from autocratic leadership, when it is applied in the most optimum way possible, cutting the corners of its potential failures, is miraculous. 

The impact it can make on an organization is monumental, however can be controversial or conflicted, but still monumental! 

Here are some of the primary benefits that an organization enjoys from its autocratic leadership style of management.  

  • It allows organizations to make quick decisions preventing the multi-layer distribution or filtration of approvals and feedback.
  • It removes the pressure on the team members or the employees
  • Due to one central command, and decision-maker, it reduces the confusion to almost negliblity.
  • It is an easy-to-learn leadership style.
  • It improves the overall communication by making it right straight from the top leader to the respective subordinates.
  • Inexperienced or inefficient team members also get away or become able to product expereinced results.
  • This leadership style is highly effective and high on returns when an organization has inexperienced employees but with ambitious projects.
  • It often increases the productivity level of the working environment. 

The Truth About Autocratic Leadership 

Are you an organization, a small business, or even a large enterprise considering adopting autocratic leadership in your management? 

But before even moving forward in that direction, 

Don’t you want to learn about the truth of autocratic leadership style? 

Discouraging the Individual Team Members 

What happens in the organization that practices autocratic leadership, is the members in the group are not quite trusted with the important decisions. 

Now, this often or let’s say, mostly discourage the team members to be invested enough in the project. 

The autocratic model of leadership tends to strip away the responsibility and credibility from the team members that demotivates them to do their job well. 

They don’t have enough reasons, passion, or motivation to put anything and everything they have in the project. 

And it makes sense because they are indeed not going to get the credit for it, so why even bother? 

The Truth About Workplace Enviroment In Autocratic Leadership Management 

The workforce in an organization becomes very meticulously ordered and regimented into structural units to function together. 

While this sounds really good, and it is to an extent as helps in creating discipline, order, and management in the workplace. 

But it is just too much of it! There is no air for creativity and innovation to breathe. In fact, anything new to do in this workplace environment is discouraged. 

Also, since everyone’s job is outlined and specified, it leaves no room for collaboration and scaling one’s capabilities. 

Even one cannot really help others to improve in the areas where they possibly can, and that might help them grow in their own skillset. 

Not to mention, such a rigidly formed workplace environment discourages the making of any leader as well. 

On the contrary, it also sometimes creates so much friction that someone has to challenge the leadership in power. 

And, this drama is not beneficial or positive for any work environment, only hurts the productivity of employees and the growth of the business. 

Defined Communication Lines Doesn’t Gurantee Communication

It is true that there are clear and defined lines of communication in autocratic leadership towards the subordinates. 

But there is a downside of it as this means the leader is stunting the communication in a very restricted way. 

So, even if there are clearly defined lines of communication going to the leader, it doesn’t guarantee the communication will happen. 

Just because your team members know that you are the person for whom they are supposed to come for dialogue, doesn’t necessarily mean they will. 

Communication is not just facilitation that a leader provides but a component of mutual understanding and respect under the relationship they nurture over time. 

And that is something an autocratic leader will never affiliate with. 

The Limitation Of Autocratic Leader 

So far the truth you’ve learned about autocratic leadership is not to look down on it but merely an observation, insight, and critique of this managerial strategy. 

Adding to it, many autocratic leaders are extremely focused on the growth of their staff members. 

Many of them are very careful about their integration of the roles within the employees making it super easy for them. 

Autocratic leaders can be charming and charismatic and often found to be in their own ways. 

Since their core power of managerial practices is authority and autocracy, it becomes limited. 

Even with all good they do or can do often goes hamstrung by the very rigid structure they’ve created for themselves. 

It is not their core policy that makes them ineffective in some ways but the lack of flexibility in their ways to operate. 

Drawbacks Of Autocratic Leadership Style 

  • Autocratic leaders mostly tend to micromanage their employees with every step or point in the process.
  • Autocratic leadership management encourages lack of accountability as employees doesn’t have any responsibilities or credentionals.
  •  Under autocratic leadership management, people become too much dependent upon the leader.
  • Such kind of leadership style may create an unwelcoming enviroment or working culture within the organization.
  • It gives a joyless, non-cooperative and tough working experience for the team members.
  • It increases the work load or the burden on the leader. Not to mention the pressure of having sole decision-maker on behalf of their substitutes.
  • Autocratic leaders often tend to ignore the skills or qualities of a competent worker in their team or office.
  • This kind of leadership makes it difficult to rectify a leadership mistake or poor results or any kind of consequences. 

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