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Autocratic Leadership – Meaning, Characteristic, Benefits, Example

Autocratic Leadership termed as authoritarian leadership, is a style of leadership where an individual will make his control decisions and may take into account a few ideas from his group members. Autocratic leadership is completely an authoritarian control over a group.


More About Autocratic Leadership

Unlike the other leadership styles, this autocratic leadership styles also has certain benefits and weakness. Usually, an individual who depend on this approach are often seems to a dictator kind or seen as bossy. However, this control level can have benefits and at certain situations they are useful too. On the other hand, the use of autocratic leadership depends on when, where, situation, type of task and characteristics of the team members. If an individual is willing to utilize this type of leadership with the team, then learning more about an individual’s style and the situation in which the style is more effective can be helpful.


Psychologist Kurt Lewin developed a foundational leadership framework in the year 1930’s, describing three major styles – autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire. In Lewin’s definition, autocratic leaders “makes decisions without consulting their team members even if their input would be useful.”

The theory in 20th century posts that consulting groups of subordinates is unnecessary. Instead, the leader makes a decision and that is conveyed in a top-down manner for all employees to follow.

Characteristics of Autocratic Leadership

Below mentioned are some of the characteristics–

  • An individual with this type of leadership may accept a little or no input from his group members.
  • They need leaders to make most of the decisions.
  • They provide leaders with the capacity to dictate the methods of work and processes.
  • In such dictating situations, people may feel like leaving the group as they might feel they are not trusted with decisions or any kind of important tasks.
  • They create highly structured or rigid environment.
  • They think out of the box and chances are there for discouraging creativity.
  • They just establish rules and tend to be more clear with the outline and communication.

Benefits of Autocratic Leadership

They are beneficial at certain instances where the decisions need to be taken on priority, efficiently, and quickly.  This style of leadership is useful in the following instances –


Provides Direction

The autocratic leadership style can be effective in small group where the quality of leadership is lacking. Example – a group of students working for certain projects has lack of autocratic leadership. In such cases, an individual can take charge of group, assign the task to different members in the team and can establish solid deadlines for projects to get it finished. By setting up clear roles, assigning various tasks, and establishing deadlines, the team is more likely to complete the project on time and provides equal contribution.

Relieves Pressure

This type of leadership is used where there is huge pressure involved. Situations like military conflicts group members prefer autocratic leadership style as they allow members of the group to focus on particular task. Apart from this, it allows team members to become highly skilled by performing certain duties that is ultimately beneficial for the success for the entire team.

Offering Structure

These autocratic leadership is also helpful in manufacturing and construction work. Each person have a clear assigned task, a deadline and certain rules to follow.

Downsides of Autocratic Leadership

Many a times, the autocratic leadership are beneficial. However, there are certain times when it might turn problematic. People who are autocratic are normally termed as bossy or dictate. This can sometime result in resentment among the group members. They feel that they do not have authority to speak usually when skilled and capable members of a team feels their contribution is not determined. Below mentioned are some of the common problems of autocratic leadership-

Discourages Group Input

Since the autocratic leaders make their own decisions without consulting anyone, they may dislike the feel that they are not being considered. However, researchers have found that these autocratic leaders cannot be creative thinkers and they lack of creating solutions for the solutions which can normally hurt the group from performing.

Hurts Morale

autocratic leadership can impair the morale of the group in some cases. People may feel more happier when they and their contributions are noticed. Since the autocratic leaders do not follow any others, the team members might be unsatisfied.

Success of Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic Leadership may be beneficial, however they are not appropriate all the time with every member in the group. If autocratic leadership is an individual’s behaviour then there are certain things that one should keep in mind –


Listen to Team Members

An individual with autocratic leadership may not listen to any one in the group. But, even you don’t listen to them, they should feel that their ideas and thoughts are heard.

Establish Clear Rules

If an individual with autocratic leadership wants and expect the members of the team to follow the rules, then he should clearly establish the rules and make them aware.

Provide Tools

When the members understand the rules, they need to be sure that they have the knowledge and abilities to perform the task that is set before. If any member need additional assistance then provide him with training to fulfil the gap.


Inconsistent leaders quickly lose the respect of their teams. Establish in such a way that you are a reliable leader and ensure your team will follow the guidance because you have built the trust with them.

Recognize the Success

Team members can lose motivation if they are only criticized when they make mistake and never rewarded for their success. Try to recognize success more than pointing out mistakes.

Examples of Autocratic Leadership

Most of the empire builders and leading figures throughout history have been Autocratic Leaders like Genghis Khan and Margaret Thatcher. Recent examples are- Richard Nixon and Elon Musk.

Richard Nixon

He was a complex person with his leadership styles. He was regarded as foreign affairs  experts and he did not trust the advise of others, regardless of their expertise, relied on his own experience and made decisions on his own.

Elon Musk

He on the other end is the example of creative side of autocratic leadership style. His business ventures have been driven by his unique vision. Musk would take the input and often makes impulse decisions.

While autocratic leadership have some potential pitfalls, leaders can learn to use the facts of this style wisely. For example- this style of leadership can be used effectively in situations where the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the group or has the access to information and other team members are not suppose to do.

Rather than wasting valuable time in consulting with less knowledgeable team members, the expert leader can quickly make decisions that are best for the group. Autocratic Leadership Style is often effective when it is used for particular situations. Balancing this leadership style with other approaches that includes democratic and transformational styles can often lead to better team performance.

Read Also:
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Bohr’s Atomic Model – Postulates of Neil Bohr Atomic Model & Limitations
Chakrasthitha is a B.E (Medical Electronics) and has work experience in MatLab and Lab View Software as Design Engineer at BCS innovations and Manipal hospital as Biomedical Engineer. She is an author, editor and partner at Electricalfundablog.


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