What is Autocratic Leadership & How Does it Work in a Business Environment?

What is Autocratic Leadership & How Does it Work in a Business Environment? | Leadership | Emeritus

When a business needs to adapt to rapid and sudden change, leaders need to make quick decisions. As a result, the role of an autocratic leader is considered equivalent to that of an emergency room surgeon who is forced to take the necessary steps to save a patient’s life. In other words, autocratic leaders make all the decisions, set the goals and objectives, and communicate instructions to their team members. If you want to explore this leadership style to drive business growth, knowing the basics—what is autocratic leadership, how it can impact individual and team performance, and its pros and cons—is essential.

What is Autocratic Leadership?

Autocratic leadership, also known as authoritarian leadership, is a leadership style where leaders have absolute control and authority to make decisions and supervise their subordinates with minimum or no input from others. Under this kind of leadership, leaders use their intuition, knowledge, and ethical values to make business decisions. They don’t look to seek suggestions from team members and go by their own experience and expertise. 

How Does Autocratic Leadership Work?

Autocratic leadership works best in situations that require error-free performance, immediate/urgent decision-making, and task completion within a deadline. This leadership style can have a positive or negative impact depending on how it is implemented, the type of organization in which it is used, and the situation.

Some examples of where autocratic leadership works the best are:

  • In emergency cases
  • Time-sensitive tasks
  • When working with inexperienced teams 

Some examples where autocratic leadership doesn’t work: 

  • Tasks requiring creative inputs
  • During team development and while training freshers
  • Tasks that require relationship building

What are the Skills an Autocratic Leader Requires?

To become a successful autocratic leader, you need to acquire the following set of skills:

  • Communication skills
  • Ability to handle pressure
  • People management 
  • Decision-making 
  • Stress management 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Adaptability

Characteristics of Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leaders have complete control over the decision-making process. While this may seem daunting, the authority to direct and supervise their team without much input or feedback makes this quite manageable. This kind of leadership is characterized by the following factors:

An autocratic leader is often considered to be bossy or dominating. In this environment, leaders control the decision-making process and direct and supervise their teams without taking much input or feedback from team members. This kind of leadership is characterized by the following factors:

Clearly Defined Roles and Responsibilities

Autocratic leadership allows leaders to delegate roles and responsibilities to their subordinates to ensure a streamlined workflow to maximize efficiency. 

Hierarchical 

Autocracies are based on organizational hierarchies. “Bosses” and “employees” make up the chain of command.

Direct Evaluation

Leaders conduct transparent performance reviews and analyze the factors responsible for not achieving the objectives set for the team.  

Structured Work Environment

Under autocratic leadership, employees complete critical tasks in a specific order and time. They also keep meticulous records of their progress.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Autocratic Leadership

What is Autocratic Leadership

With a clearer picture of what autocratic leadership is and how it works, let’s now understand its pros and cons. 

Advantages

1. Quick Outcomes

When autocratic leaders make decisions, they must inform only a few stakeholders. They also receive less feedback from the different levels of management. This process allows autocratic leaders to accelerate their decision-making and achieve quick results.

2. Enhanced Productivity and Efficiency

Faster decision-making can lead to enhanced productivity of a team. Under an autocratic leadership style, leaders are the ones who make the decisions. Therefore, there is less waiting time for any decisions to get approval, which allows subordinates to work quickly and efficiently. This increases their productivity, performance, and efficiency.

3. Provides Direction

Autocratic leadership shows the right path for employees. For example, if an individual in a team tends to miss deadlines, authoritarian leaders help that individual to meet the deadline by directing them on how to break down the project into smaller tasks and focus on achieving small goals.

4. Highly Organized

Autocratic structures assist people in determining where they fit concerning others. Everything is well structured and organized so that team members are clear about their responsibilities, which reduces confusion among the ranks. This is perfect for training inexperienced teams where members may be unable to self-direct.

Disadvantages

1. Inadequate Group Participation

Group discussions generate creative ideas. Essentially, these types of brainstorming sessions are not entertained under autocratic leadership. Such leaders make decisions independently, meaning they risk passing on potentially great ideas.

2. No Acknowledgment of Feedback

This leadership style discourages feedback from their employees. Usually, subordinates are responsible for carrying out the work and thus have a clear view of minor issues that could harm the organization. Many times, minor issues can escalate into major ones just because of the ignorance of the management.

3. Employee Morale May Suffer 

Workplace autonomy is essential. In fact, it promotes creativity and contributes to employee happiness and well-being. Autocratic leaders, however, may limit this independence, which can breed disengagement and a lack of trust in the leadership.

4. Significant Pressure on the Leader

Leaders bear the brunt of the pressure faced by the company. This can lead to stress, ultimately leading to losses for the organization.

ALSO READ: How to Develop Leadership Skills in Employees: Insights and Strategies

How to Avoid Being an Autocratic Leader

Every leader has a unique approach to leading a team. Some people prefer a collaborative process, while others prefer greater control. Some leaders may combine two or more leadership approaches depending on the circumstances. Here are some ways that you adopt to avoid being an autocratic leader. 

Actively Listen

Successful leaders listen to their team members and those around them, cultivating a culture of collaboration and creativity. Listening to employees’ concerns can help you improve the workplace environment and productivity. 

Establish Trust

To lessen the impact of an autocratic leader, you can start depending on your team for minor tasks or less important work. This will motivate team members and make them feel important. You will gain their trust, leading to more effective results in the long run.

Recognize and Celebrate Accomplishments

Recognizing employees for their hard work and rewarding them for outstanding performance boosts self-confidence and increases productivity. Recognition can be in the form of anything, like gifts, bonuses, and best employee awards, among other things. This small gesture will make them feel more at ease in their workplace.

Examples of Autocratic Leadership 

Sam Walton (founder of Walmart) and Ray Kroc (owner of McDonald’s) are some leaders who believe that autocratic leadership is required to streamline processes, grow customer bases, and pave the way for long-term survival.

Other significant examples of autocratic leaders are: 

  • Roger Ailes,  the president of the Fox News Channel
  • Helen Gurley Brown, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine
  • Lorne Michaels, creative producer of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”
  • John Chambers, the chairman of Cisco Systems
  • Leonard D. Schaeffer, CEO of Blue Cross of California 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Type of Leader Can be Called Autocratic?

An autocratic leader has complete control over their decisions and rarely seeks input from others. Moreover, they prefer to direct the course of their team based on their knowledge and personal instincts.

Where is Autocratic Leadership Used?

This leadership style is beneficial in industries and organizations where decisions must be made quickly and efficiently, and specific tasks must be performed in a particular manner with little room for error. For instance, construction, manufacturing, and the military.

What Makes a Good Leader?

A good leader should be honest, self-aware, courageous, respectful, empathic, and grateful. Now, when it comes to autocratic leaders should be confident, straightforward, and consistent while providing guidance and delegating tasks to team members.

Learning Leadership Styles with Emeritus

If you are impressed by this leadership style or want to develop the skills you prefer, then you should gain the necessary skills. Emeritus offers online leadership courses that are well suited to recognize the changing roles of leaders in various industries today. These courses help leaders emerge in multiple sectors, including technology, marketing, and sustainability.

Write to us at content@emeritus.org

What is Autocratic Leadership

About the Author

Content Contributor, Emeritus
Siddhesh is a skilled and versatile content professional with 4+ years of experience in writing for the digital space and the screen. As a polyglot with a flair for many different languages, he specializes in creating engaging narratives. With a passion for storytelling and an unwavering commitment to excellence, he writes thought-provoking and persuasive blogs about careers in different fields. Siddhesh is a doting cat parent and has also graduated to becoming a musician after releasing his debut single on Spotify recently.
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