Authoritarian / Autocratic Leadership

Authoritarian Leadership Style:

An authoritarian leadership style is being used when a leader who dictates policies and procedures, decides what goals are to be achieved, and directs and controls all activities without any meaningful participation by the subordinates. Authoritarian leaders are commonly referred to as autocratic leaders. Direct supervision is what they believe to be key in maintaining a successful environment and follower ship.

In fear of followers being unproductive, authoritarian leaders keep close supervision and feel this is necessary in order for anything to be done. Authoritarian leaders use their power to influence and tend to be task oriented. It is also referred to as directive or controlling style of leadership. Autocratic leadership allows quick decision-making, and eliminates arguments over how and why things get done. Autocratically -led organizations are generally not supportive of personal relationships, but much more keyed to chain-of-command.

Characteristics of Authoritarian Leaders:

1. The authoritarian leadership style or autocratic leader keeps strict, close control over followers by keeping close regulation of policies and procedures given to followers.

2. Authoritarian leaders provide clear expectations for what needs to be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done.

3. Authoritarian leaders make decisions independently with little or no input from the rest of the group. Staff and team members have little opportunity to make suggestions, even if these would be in the team's or the organization's best interest

4. Authoritarian leaders uphold stringent control over their followers by directly regulating rules, methodologies, and actions.

5. Authoritarian leaders construct gaps and build distance between themselves and their followers with the intention of stressing role distinctions

6. Authoritarian leaders seldom foster creativity in decision-making

7. Authoritarian leaders believe that followers require direct supervision at all times or else they would not operate effectively

Communication Patterns of Authoritarian Leadership:

  • Downward, one-way communication (i.e. leaders to followers, or supervisors to subordinates)
  • Controls discussion with followers
  • Dominates interaction
  • Independently/unilaterally sets policy and procedures
  • Individually directs the completion of tasks
  • Does not offer constant feedback
  • Rewards acquiescent obedient behavior and punishes erroneous actions
  • Poor listener
  • Uses conflict for individual gain
  • Give orders and assign tasks without taking the subordinates into confidence
  • Inter communication between members is little
  • Directions are given as commands, not suggestions 

Situations where Effective:

  • Authoritarian leadership is best applied to situations where there is little time for group discussion.
  • Autocratic leadership style works well if the leader is competent and knowledgeable enough to decide about each and everything
  • Authoritative is considered one of the most effective leadership styles in case there is some emergency and quick decisions need to be taken.
  • Decision of autocratic leader is fast and time saving
  • Increase in productivity when leader is present
  • Produces more accurate solutions when leaser is knowledgeable
  • Is more positively accepted in larger groups
  • Enhances performance on simple tasks and decreases performance on complex tasks
  • Also effective and useful when group is not educated

Situations where In-Effective:

  • Most people resent being treated this way
  • Not effective for complex tasks
  • Not effective where creativity and innovation is required
  • Increases aggression levels among followers
  • Increases turnover rates
  • Abuse of this style is usually viewed as controlling, bossy and dictatorial
  • Often leads to high levels of absenteeism


Late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple was the exemplar of this style of leadership. Although it is not a generally recommended style of leadership, research does support that when an organization is under extreme pressure authoritarian leadership may very well be necessary and can help in turnaround of the organization. We advise caution while applying this style with mature people in your team. 

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