What is Autocratic Leadership? Definition, Features, Types, and, Pros/Cons

What is Autocratic Leadership?

Autocratic leadership is a leadership style in which an individual has sole authority to make decisions on all matters of the business. In an organizational setting, the top-level leader enjoys absolute authority by this leadership.

Authoritarian leadership, dictatorial leadership, and centralized leadership are synonyms of autocratic leadership. In this, leaders are called autocratic leaders. They have full control over the business and while making decisions they take very little to no suggestions from their subordinates or followers.

Since the autocratic leader enjoys full authority he is also responsible for the performance of his business. He uses one-way communication. Makes all decisions and policies himself and expects little or no disagreement from subordinates while implementing his decisions.

He even decides the way to do the given task for his followers. Many say authoritarian leadership does not reward employees. It is not always true. Autocratic leaders even decide the rewards for obedient employees and have also authority to punish the disobedient ones.

Autocratic leadership is useful when there is fast decision-making required, the leader is highly experienced and confident, and employees are new and unskilled.

Types of Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership is also divided into two types – strict and benevolent leadership.

Strict Leadership

Strict leadership is a negative form of authoritarian leadership. Strict autocracy is when the leader always uses negative motivation tools to direct his followers.

In strict leadership, the leader is all in all in every matter of the business. He uses negative motivations like punishment, firing, demotion, penalty, etc. He uses these threatening means to get work done by his subordinates.

Related: Democratic Leadership Style

Benevolent Leadership

The opposite side of strict leadership is benevolent leadership. Benevolent leadership is a positive form of authoritarian leadership style. A benevolent form of autocracy is what has made the autocratic leadership style more useful even in modern days.

Many argue that autocratic leaders never accept input or suggestions from their subordinates. But this is not the case with benevolent leadership.

In it, leaders use positive motivations. They encourage their followers by giving incentives like promotions, rewards, more remuneration, etc. In some situations, they even take guidance and suggestions from their subordinates.

Characteristics of Autocratic Leadership

The following are the notable features of authoritarian leadership.

  • All decisions are made by autocratic leaders with little to no input from other members.
  • Leaders expect full obedience from their followers.
  • Leaders have the right to dictate work methods and processes.
  • Information and communication channels are controlled by leaders.
  • Leaders expect the desired output at the desired time at any cost from their subordinates.
  • Strict supervision and control are adopted by leaders for effective control of subordinates.
  • Normally, negative motivation techniques like threatening, suspension, demotion, etc. are used to motivate employees.
  • Creates a highly structured and rigid environment
  • Leaders evaluate the performance of employees on the basis of personal judgment.

Read Also: Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Advantages of Autocratic Leadership

There are many instances where autocratic leadership is desirable. Some of them are mentioned below:

Prompt Decision

Prompt decision-making is facilitated by an autocratic environment. In this leadership style, leaders make all decisions themselves. There is no need for employees’ participation in the decision-making process which causes the long process for finalization.

Timely Work Completion

Along with timely work completion, autocratic leadership often ensures the completion of work prior to the desired time. Because all subordinates work in strict discipline the desired work as well as urgent work can be accomplished in the stipulated time.

Clearly Defined Structure

In the authoritarian leadership style, there are clearly defined rules, regulations, and procedures which enable employees to know their roles, what they have to do, what not, and how they do in the organization. This is beneficial for rule followers who do best when they are told what to do and how.

Related: What is Organizational Structure?

Easy Acceptance

One of the pros of the autocratic leadership style is that employees easily accept instructions and guidance from leaders. Since the environment is highly structured, rigid, and dictatorial employees are not supposed to reject or suspect the leader’s orders and commands.


This leadership style is most appropriate in small organizations or organizations having new, unskilled, and inexperienced employees. Even it is useful when the projects require strong leadership to get accomplished effectively and efficiently. However, for this confident and knowledgeable leaders are required.

Disadvantages of Autocratic Leadership

Despite many advantages, there are also certain circumstances where autocratic leadership is not suitable. Since this leadership style does not value the contribution of employees the experienced and knowledgeable employees may feel undervalued and leave the job.

There may be less employee satisfaction as they are not considered in important organizational activities. Some of the cons of autocratic leadership include.

  • The motivation becomes temporary since employees are not allowed to participate in the decision-making process.
  • Because of low opportunities for career development, experienced employees quit their jobs. This increases the job turnover rate.
  • Because of one-way communication, employee satisfaction and performance may be below expectations.
  • Succession planning becomes poor because of the lack of opportunity for subordinates to improve their professional skills during their jobs.
  • Poor relations between managers i.e. leaders and employees.
  • Low job satisfaction may also increase the chance of wasting resources.
  • Employee commitment will become low for team effort because of poor coordination.
  • This leadership style is not suitable for large and diversified organizations.

When To Use Autocratic Leadership Style?

This leadership style can be useful in the following situations.

  • When the subordinates are inexperienced, lack proper training and knowledge, unable to understand organizational goals.
  • When different organizational projects require strong leadership.
  • When the company approves fear and punishment as accepted disciplinary techniques.
  • When the leader is highly competent in decision-making.
  • When the leader wants to be active and dominant in decision-making.
  • When the company reaches in decline stage and wants to get back to normal conditions, this leadership style may be a suitable option.

Read Next: Pros and Cons of Autocratic Leadership

Leave a Comment