What is meant by autocratic leadership?

What is meant by autocratic leadership? : A management style known as autocratic leadership is one in which one person makes all the decisions and solicits little input from the other group members . Autocratic leaders make decisions or choices based on their own beliefs and do not consult or seek advice from others.

Read Detail Answer On What is meant by autocratic leadership?

By Charlotte Nickerson , published May 05, 2022 | Fact Checked by Saul Mcleod, PhD

Key Points

  • Autocratic or authoritarian leadership is characterized by the control of an individual over thedecisions that impact a group with little-to-no input from group members.
  • Kurt Lewin and his colleagues were the first to characterize autocratic leadership as one of three leadership styles — the other two being democratic and laissez-faire.
  • By most definitions, autocratic leadership involves limited input from stakeholders, a highly structured environment, and clearly defined rules and processes. This generally makes subordinates feel as though they cannot contribute to theprocess of decision making.
  • Autocratic leadership is useful in certain situations, such as those where decisions need to be made quickly and efficiently — for example, in resource allocation during a natural disaster. However, autocratic leadership can often decrease group member morale and endanger group stability.


Scholars generally agree that autocratic leadership styles share three major characteristics in common:

  • Limited input from stakeholders: autocratic leaders make most if not all group decisions, leaving little room for feedback. This leadership style may voice efficiency when decisions need to be made quickly; however, this can potentially have repercussions on group morale.

    For example, according to traditional management advice (Harms et al., 2018), employees who are not trusted with decisions or important tasks may question the value to bring to a company — ajournalist who spends weeks doing extensive research for a story may face lowered morale if an autocratic editor decides not to publish the story simply because it was not to their taste.

  • Highly structured environment: autocratically structured groups and organizations tend to be rigid in a way that clearly defines who has power. This, again, increases efficiency.

    However, the strangeness of autocratic environments may also demotivate those working under the leader. Forinstance, a team member who knows that their activity is constantly being monitored by their manager may be motivated to complete their job by solely of fear.

  • Clearly defined rules and processes: groups under autocratic leadership tend to have clearly defined roles, rules, and processes.

    This may, however, result in those under the leader feeling as though their input is not valued. Overall, clearly defined rules and processes tend to discourage creativity and differentialthinking.

Autocratic Leadership in Nursing

Traditionally, many nurses have been led using autocratic leadership styles, and these historical influences still permeate contemporary practice (Murphy, 2005). Autocratic leadership can be mirrored in organizational philosophies and disempowered staff.

A number of researchers have looked into the effects of different leadership philosophies on nurse performance and morale, including Maboko (2011). Authoritarian leadership is a barrier to empowerment in nursing, according to Koukkanen and Kaatajisto (2003), as it is harmful to crucial nursing management functions like listening, conflict management champion nurses, communication, and the perception that workers are change agents.

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The researcher, using qualitative methods, found that autocratic leadership tended to cause resentment among nurses and that the style often arose out of hospitals having limited information about other leadership styles — such as transformational and visionary leadership (Maboko, 2011).

Climate, Wealth, and Leadership Culture

Some academics have hypothesized that cultural adaptations to non-cultural aspects of the national environment, such as the severity of a country’s climate or its level of national wealth, result in leadership styles.

Van de Vliert, in an analysis of managerial survey data from 62 cultures found that autocratic leadership at the organizational level was most prevalent in poorer countries with harsh climates. Meanwhile, autocratic leadership was seen as less effective in rich cultures with harsh climates.

Autocratic Leadership and JobSatisfaction

Numerous studies have drawn links between leadership styles and job satisfaction. Nadarasa and Thuraisingam (2012) studied the impacts of autocratic leadership styles on teachers at public and private and public schools. As in other studies, the researchers found that autocratic leadership styles tended to correlate negatively with job satisfaction.

Autocratic Leadership and Group Stability

According to many scholars (Hardin, 1968; Hobbes, 1651; Messick and Brewer, 1983; Solson, 1965; Vugt et al.), autocratic leadership is the most effective way to resolve group conflicts involving the distribution of scarce resources or the provision of public goods. , 2003). Vugt et al. and other researchers, however by researching the long-term effects of autocratic leadership philosophies, have attempted to refute this viewpoint.

Researchers in particular believed that autocratic leaders would endanger group stability by inciting members to leave the group and take its resources with them. In Vugt et al. People collaborated in small groups to complete a task that involved the distribution of public goods in the study. They had autocratic, democratic, or laissez-faire leaders.

In the autocratic and democratic conditions, participants received success feedback at random, whereas in the laissez-faire condition, they received either fake success feedback or no feedback on outcome at all After engaging in each investmenttask, the group members had an opportunity to leave the group and join a different group for a subsequent task

As expected, those under the autocratic leadership style were more likely to decide to change groups than those under other styles of leadership. In fact, the proportion of exciters in the autocratic condition was so high that many groups would have failed because they lacked the necessary number of members to produce the goods.

Thus, at least in conditions where it is straightforwardto leave a group, Vugt et al (2003) argued that autocratic leadership is not a viable solution (Ziller, 1965) These results persisted regardless of whether or not the group ultimately succeeded

When questioned, the group members in the autocratic leader condition tended to give the same explanation for their decisions to stay or leave: under autocratic leadership, group members were dissatisfied with the level of control they could exert over the decision-making process (Vugt et al., 2004). , 2003).

These results are supported by additional research. A few people, including Bass (1990) and Yukl (1989), have argued that the main distinction between autocratic and democratic leadership is the degree of influence that group members have over the decision-making process.

Researchers have also discovered that the degree to which people feel in control of the decision-making process has a greater impact than the degree to which people feel in control of the decisions themselves.

The exit-voice hypothesis (Hirschman, 1970), for instance, claims that there is a trade-off between how willing individuals are to leave the group and express their dissatisfaction in a dysfunctional group.

Namely, if group members lack opportunities to voice their concerns, they will resort to exit; in situations where the opportunity to voice concerns is absent, they resort to voice (Vugt et al , 2003)

The autocratic style of leadership, although it has been called “obsolete,” (Weiskittel, 1999) andgarners largely negative attention, can be beneficial in some instances, such as when decisions need to be made quickly and without consulting large groups of people.

Provides Direction

Autocratic rule can give direction. Consider, for instance, a select group of students who frequently fail to meet due dates for upcoming assignments. In this scenario, a strong leader—perhaps a student who is particularly motivated to get good grades—could be given the role of leader or could take on the responsibility independently.

The student may then break-down the assignment into tasks and assign their peers’ clear roles, responsibilities, and establish deadlines, making it more likely that the group will finish a project on time with equal contributions on each member’s part.

Relieves Pressure

Additionally, in situations where decisions could have significant repercussions, autocratic leadership can reduce stress. An autocratic style of leadership, for instance, might be preferred by the military during a nation’s civil war.

This autocratic style allows group members to become highly skilled in performing their duties — rather than diffusing their time and resources into decision making. Ultimately, this may contribute to group success in instances where the group must perform at a higher level and under greater levels of stress than usual.

Offers Structure

Highly complex systems can benefit from structure provided by the autocratic leadership style. Consider the scenario where a drama teacher is responsible for organizing every aspect of a school play, from the script to the costumes and sets.

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The teacher may be able to ensure that the play runs smoothly and with less confusion than would happen if the group members made decisions democratically by exercising strong leadership and assigning each group member specific tasks, a deadline, and rules to follow.

Although autocratic leadership canoccasionally be useful for group efficiency and organization, there are many cases where it can be problematic, ultimately leading to low group morale, resentment, and possible group instability.

Discourages Group Input

Autocratic leadership, by definition, discourages group input. In response, group members may feel that they are unable to contribute creative solutions to group problems, and that their individual knowledge and expertise have been overlooked.Research has supported this conclusion.

For instance, Guo (2018) found that there was a strong inverse relationship between authoritarian leadership and creativity in a study of managers in Nigeria and China. This was particularly obvious in settings where staff members chose to remain silent out of fear of reprimand.

This relationship also took a strong effect when employees had little “psychological capital” — low scores on traits such asself-assurance.

Charlotte Nickerson is a member of the Class of 2024 at Harvard University Coming from a research background in biology and archeology, Charlotte currently studies how digital and physical space shapes human beliefs, norms, and behaviors and how this can be used to create businesses with greater social impact

Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy,relevance, and timeliness We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication

Nickerson, C. (2022, May 05). Autocratic Leadership Style. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/autocratic-leadership.html

  • Further Information

    Leadership Styles Wang, H., & Guan, B. (2018). The positive effect of authoritarian leadership on employee performance: The moderating role of power distance. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 357.Gastil,J. (1994). A meta-analytic review of the productivity and satisfaction of democratic and autocratic leadership. Small Group Research, 25(3), 384-410.

Andrew M. K. the Standing T. S. Glick J. et al. Leadership and nurse retention, 2005. Journal of Nursing Administration, 35(3), 146155.

Bass, B M , and Stogdill, R M (1990) Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications Simon and Schuster

Cherry K. (2006). Leadership Styles. Retrieved from: http://psychology.about.com/od/leadership/ 

Guo, L , Decoster, S , Babalola, M T , De Schutter, L , Garba, O A , and Riisla, K (2018) Authoritarian leadership and employee creativity: The moderating role of psychological capital and the mediating role of fear and defensive silence Journal of Business Research, 92, 219-230

1968’s Hardin Commons-based tragedy Research (New York, N. Y. ), 162(3859),12431248.

P. Harms D. , Wood, D. Landay, K. P. Lester B. , and Lester, G. V. (2018). A review and agenda for the future on autocratic leaders and authoritarian followers. 29(1), 105–122, The Leadership Quarterly.

Hirschman, A O (1970) Exit, voice, and loyalty: Responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states (Vol 25) Harvard university press Hobbes, T (1651/1939)

Leviathan Koukkanen, L. Modern Library, New York. and J. Katajisto Nurses’ assessments of their workplace environment were published in Journal of Nursing Administration 33, 209215 in 2003.

Lewin, K , Lippitt, R , and White, R K (1939) Patterns of aggressive behavior in experimentally created social climates The Journal of Social Psychology, 10(2), 269-299

Maboko, D R (2012) Nursing leadership in an academic hospital in Gauteng Journal of nursing management, 20(7),912-920

D. Messick M. , H. Wilke Brewer, M. B. , R. Kramer M. Peter Zemke E. , and L. Lui (1983). Solutions to social problems include individual modifications and structural change. Journal of Social Psychology and Personality, 44(2), 294.

Murphy, L. (2005). Transformational leadership: a cascading chain reaction. Journal of Nursing Management, 13(2), 128-136.

NDARASA, T along with Thuraisingam, R. (2014). Study of secondary schools in the Jaffna district to determine the effect of principal leadership styles on teachers’ job satisfaction. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, 4(1), pp. 1–7

Martin Olson (1965). Public goods and group theory are central to the logic of collective action. Massachusetts: Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Strachota, E , Normandin, P , OBrien, N , Clary, M , and Krukow, B (2003) Reasons registered nurses leave or change employment status JONA: The Journal ofNursing Administration, 33(2), 111-117

Van Vugt, M , Jepson, S F , Hart, C M , and De Cremer, D (2004) Autocratic leadership insocial dilemmas: A threat to group stability Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40(1), 1-13

Theresa Weiskittel (1999). the idea of being in charge. 26(5), 467; Nephrology Nursing Journal.

Yukl, G. A. (1989). Taking the helm in a company. NJ: 1364 Prentice-Hall, Engelwood Cliffs.

Ziller, R C (1965) Toward a theory of open and closed groups Psychological Bulletin, 64(3), 164

What is an example of autocratic leadership? : Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Queen Elizabeth I, and Vladimir Putin are all examples of autocratic leadership, which is defined as when one leader imposes total, authoritarian control over a group or organization—or, in the case of these well-known autocrats, vast empires.
Why is autocratic leadership good? : Decisions can be made very quickly In this leadership style, there is no need to gather consensus from your team or from other parts of the organisation when making decisions Your say goes Because of this, autocratic leadership lends itself particularly well to high-stress situations where quick decisions are vital
What are the characteristics of an autocratic leader? : The following four characteristics define autocratic leaders: The leader accepts little to no input. Every decision is made by the leader. The team’s methods and procedures are directed by the leader. The leader establishes orderly, frequently rigid environments.
Read Detail Answer On What are the characteristics of an autocratic leader?

leadership isvital in many workplace environments This style is necessary within organizations and companies that demand error-free outcomes While autocratic leadership is one of the least popular management styles, its also among the most common

One person typically makes all strategic choices for subordinates under an autocratic leadership style. The autocratic leadership style is still widely used today, despite its recent decline in popularity.

Read on to learn more:

  • Introduction to autocratic leadership style
  • What is the definition of an autocratic leader?
  • History and characteristics of autocraticleaders
  • Autocratic leadership examples and quotes
  • Autocratic leadership style
  • Autocratic leadership pros and cons
  • What are the benefits of autocratic leadership?

There are many contemporary examples of leaders who prefer the “my way or the highway” technique. The autocratic style was made famous by certain military and political leaders, sports coaches and Industrial Age icons. These autocratic, or authoritarian, leaders come to mind:

  • U.S.Gen. George C. Patton
  • Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi
  • Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller
  • U.S. President Richard M. Nixon

Compared to other modern leadership theories, the autocratic style lost popularity in the 1970s. This was partly brought on by the Pentagon Papers exposé in The New York Times and the Watergate exposé in The Washington Post, which caused Nixon to resign.

Autocratic leadership has received a ton of criticism due tonumerous factors. Here are three:

  • Historically, autocratic leadership has been associated with tyrants and dictators who used authoritarian means to cajole and threaten underlings into performing tasks.
  • Autocratic leadership has become the fallback position for managers of people who lack skills, training and experience. Motivational leadership styles are more suitable for environments with experienced staff.
  • Some people are uncomfortable working for autocratic leadersbecause they feel it epitomizes authoritarianism, even if it’s the most suitable management style for training inexperienced staff or implementing consistent quality control processes.

Autocratic leadership definition

Autocratic derives from the words auto (Greek for self) and cratic, which implies rule.

Whether they are the mayor of a large city, the CEO of a corporation, or the director of an organization, autocratic leaders frequently see themselves as the automobile engines that propel the people under their tutelage or command.

It may seem incongruous to think of autocratic leaders as self-driven. But if their role in business, government or other organizations is to drive others to perform at their best and accomplish tasks without making mistakes, then the description is appropriate.

Why are autocratic leaders considered authoritarian?

It seems more appropriate to use the term authoritarian, which is frequently used in conjunction with autocratic, to describe leaders who make decisions with little to no input from others. However, the definition makes sense when compared to democratic and laissez-faire leaders rather than autocratic leaders.

Unlike democratic and laissez-faire leaders, autocratic leaders do not frequently elicit opinions or expertise from those who report to them. Autocratic leadership, on the other hand, suggests that one person makes all of the decisions for a group, team, or assembly.

In this context, autocratic leaders have ominous responsibilities. Not only are they expected to make all the decisions, they’re expected to make all the right decisions.

History of autocratic leadership

A vivid portrait of autocratic rulers is painted by history. Many autocratic leaders were innovators who transformed industries and advanced societies, even though some, like Attila the Hun, Adolph Hitler, and Joseph Stalin, were maniacal tyrants.

The combination of progressive ideas, self-determination and autocratic leadership led to some of history’s most significant events. These include:

  • The rise of the Roman Empire under Julius Caesar
  • The settling of the U.S. Colonies thanks to John Smith
  • The popularity of the automobile due to Henry Ford

Ford, who helped perfect assembly-line manufacturing and economies of scale, is one of the clearest examples of an autocratic leader who changed society Although Ford remains a controversial figure as an authoritarian industrial magnet, he created hundreds of thousands of jobs and raised wages for assembly-line workers

At the opposite extreme, Huey Long and Richard Daley — political bosses of Louisiana and Chicago, respectively — gained immense popularity in their states even as they violated all kinds of laws, including, reportedly, murder.

Was Lincoln an autocratic leader?

Because of the numerous independent choices he made throughout the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln is occasionally referred to as an autocrat.

Lincoln did not exhibit many of the authoritarian traits of autocratic leaders, but from 1861 to 1865, America needed a bold president who was willing to make unpopular decisions. Lincoln rose to the challenge and turned into the autocrat the US needed at the time.

Other historic examples of autocratic leaders:

  • Genghis Khan
  • King Henry VIII
  • Queen Elizabeth I
  • Napoleon Bonaparte
  • Father Junipero Serra
  • Queen Isabella I

Examples of autocratic leadership

Discipline, preparation and victory are three pillars of autocratic leadership These objectives are present on all successful football teams from the Alabama Crimson Tide to the New England Patriots

Bill Belichick, Bear Bryant, Bill Parcells, and Woody Hayes, among other outstanding football coaches, belong on the list of autocratic leaders. These legendary football coaches didn’t run their programs with democracy in mind, but they all had fantastic careers.

Autocratic leadership is also effective in industries like manufacturing that demand near-perfect accuracy. With staff who require prompt and effective training, the autocratic or authoritarian style is required. Often, fast-food businesses fall into this category.

Autocratic leadership is also common in professions where life-and-death decisions occur. Think ambulatory care and hospitals, police, military personnel and fire departments.

Autocratic leadership in the music industry

When it comes to opportunistic dictators, the music industry is frequently disregarded. Every successful musical ensemble needs a leader to maintain continuity and longevity, whether it’s the conductor of the Boston Pops orchestra or the lead guitarist for a top-charting band.

Two unlikely contemporary examples of popular bands with autocratic leaders are Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the Eagles

Petty, a native of Florida and the frontman of his own band by the same name, is a notorious perfectionist. He has an authoritarian and strict leadership style. Petty is credited with working alone to persuade record labels to split the profits more equitably, which continues to benefit musicians today. Petty is also unapologetically honest about his choice to fire the band’s original drummer for what amounted to a perceived lack of commitment.

Glenn Frey, a Michigan native turned permanent Arizona resident, co-founded the Eagles. Frey has a reputation as an autocratic leader who espoused the “my way or the highway” style throughout the Eagles’ successful, if rocky, road to stardom. Frey makes no apologies for his belief that he and co-founder Don Henley were the engines that drove the Eagles to fame and fortune.

Examplesof autocratic leadership in business

Contrary to popular opinion, most enterprises are well-suited for the autocratic leadership style at some level Although start-ups are often best launched under a transformative, democratic or laissez-faire style of leadership, most businesses later benefit from autocratic leadership

This doesnt mean mature businesses must switch to a top-down autocratic leadership style It means that autocratic leaders are often recruited to improveefficiencies within specific departments

The founders of many of todays successful companies learned from industry innovators including Wal-Marts Sam Walton, McDonalds Ray Kroc, and Oracles Larry Ellison that autocratic leadership is necessary to streamline processes, grow their customer base, and pave the way for long-term survival

Other industries well-suited for autocratic leadership:

  • Restaurants: People go to restaurants with bigexpectations. Whether it’s a fast-food chain or an upscale establishment, customers expect consistent service, well-mannered hosts and efficient servers. Whether they order the combo burger and fries or a seven-course gourmet meal, customers expect their food to be good. Dining establishments need an autocratic leadership style to meet these expectations. Even the most cheerful and lively restaurant runs on slim margins that can tolerate minimal mistakes.
  • Manufacturing: TheLCD TV business took decades to perfect through a combination of trial-and-error R&D and autocratic leadership. To meet consumer demand for affordable thin-screen TVs, LCD manufacturers endured significant rejection rates of liquid crystal display panels. Thanks to the implementation of tight quality control tolerances, achieved through autocratic leadership, today’s consumers can buy large-screen TVs for $499 that cost upwards of $5,000 in the 1990s.
  • Aerospace: Autocraticleadership that emphasizes error-free processes leads to safety and affordability in aerospace manufacturing. Considering the millions of commercial, cargo and NASA flights that launch and land safely every year, the aerospace industry deserves credit for consistent passenger safety. Their successes would not be possible without autocratic leaders and innovators.

Famous autocratic leaders

Icons in politics and business who have achieved success typically display a range of leadership philosophies. Due to this, it is challenging to categorize them as purely democratic, laissez-faire, transformative, or even autocratic leaders.

Nevertheless, plenty of leaders stand out as having autocratic leadership characteristics. These executives, publishers, producers, directors and coaches display authoritarian traits that contribute to their success:

  • Lorne Michaels: One of the 20th century’s most influential figures, Michaels changed television comedyand altered American culture in subtle and extraordinary ways. As creative producer of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” Michaels launched hundreds of comedians’ careers, from Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner to Eddie Murphy and Will Ferrell. Michaels’ instinct for tapping into America’s pulse and his ability to get the most out of talent are unrivaled on TV. He is known as a demanding producer, but he exemplifies the best traits of an autocratic leader.
  • Roger Ailes: Thepresident of the Fox News Channel has a reputation as an autocratic leader dating to the late 1960s, when he worked as an advisor to President Nixon. Ailes began his career in television broadcasting before migrating to political consulting. Ailes joined media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s launch of the Fox Entertainment Group in the late 1980s. Although controversial and authoritarian, Ailes is an accomplished executive who redefined news broadcasting for the 21st century through his autocraticleadership style.
  • Helen Gurley Brown: The former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine is notable for many things, not least of which was her ability to consistently turn a profit in publishing for more than three decades. Brown moved to New York City early in her career and blended in immediately. She assumed the helm of Cosmopolitan and revolutionized the women’s fashion market, leveraging her position to reflect and influence American culture. Brown was knownas a task master in a business that thrives on getting things done with minimal corrections.
  • John Chambers: The chairman of Cisco Systems, Chambers assumed the CEO position of a relatively unknown Silicon Valley company that made telephone switches. After 25 years, Cisco evolved into an estimated $47 billion company that dominates the networking industry. Today, Cisco stock is one of a handful of bellwether holdings used to measure the U.S. economy. This wasaccomplished under Chambers’ autocratic leadership in which no detail was purportedly too small for his attention.
  • Ridley Scott: In an industry where box-office receipts measure success, Scott remains one of the few Hollywood directors whose films are profitable and critically acclaimed. A short list of his films includes “Blade Runner,” “Alien,” “Thelma & Louise,” “White Squall,” “Gladiator,” “American Gangster,” “Prometheus” and his recent “Exodus: Gods andKings.” Scott, who began his career as a graphic designer, has a reputation as a perfectionist. Actors are expected to know their lines, positions and cues before the camera starts rolling.
  • Tony La Russa: The retired manager of the Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox, La Russa is one of Major League Baseball’s winningest coaches. La Russa, who earned a law degree and was admitted to the Florida state bar, is ranked third in MLB coachinghistory with 2,728 victories. La Russa won three world championships, six league championships and 12 division titles during his 33 seasons coaching baseball. On the field, La Russa came across as laid-back, but he was constantly strategizing and studying players.

Quotes about autocratic leadership

These leaders have reputations as being hands-on perfectionists. Here are some quotations that reflect their autocratic leadership styles:

  • VinceLombardi: “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.”
  • Henry Ford: “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.”
  • Tony La Russa: “There are always distractions, if you allow them.”
  • Napoleon Bonaparte: “Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self-interest.”
  • Ridley Scott: “I think, at the end of the day, filmmaking is ateam. But eventually there’s got to be a captain.”
  • Michael Bloomberg: “Nobody is going to delegate a lot of power to a secretary that they can’t control.”
  • Ray Kroc: “You’re only as good as the people you hire.”
  • Alfred Hitchcock: “If an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, ‘It’s in the script.’ If he says, ‘But what’s my motivation?’ I say, ‘Your salary.’”
  • Roger Ailes:“Audiences are shifting. Platforms are shifting. Ages are shifting. It’s better to be in charge than to have to react to change.”
  • Gordon Ramsey: “Kitchens are hard environments and they form incredibly strong characters.”
  • Lorne Michaels: “To me there’s no creativity without boundaries. If you’re gonna write a sonnet, it’s 14 lines, so it’s solving the problem within the container.”
  • John D. Rockefeller: “I do not thinkthat there is any quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance.”

Autocratic leadership case study: Blue Cross of California

David Leonard When he was appointed CEO of Blue Cross of California in 1986, Schaeffer thought of himself as an autocratic leader. The business was in financial ruin at the time and had the worst performance among all Blue Cross plans in the US. His task was to change the situation. In an article titled “The Leadership Journey” from the Harvard Business Review, Schaeffer detailed his personal experience. An excerpt is provided below:.

It is much more crucial to just decide and get things moving in a business when change is required relatively quickly than it is to take the time to conduct a thorough analysis and try to persuade others to see things your way. Therefore, I would characterize an autocratic leader as being forced to do whatever it takes to save a patient’s life, not as someone who unnecessarily bullies others.

Schaeffer eventually abandoned the autocratic method even though he had used it effectively earlier in his career. Likewise, students who gravitate toward this style can learn how to adapt and perfect their leadership techniques as times change.

Autocratic leadership style requirements

Autocratic leaders typically make all major decisions on their own, with little or no input from others Extremeauthoritarian leaders often insist on making even minor decisions

Leaders needing to control minute tasks often are derided as micromanagers. Although the military traditionally encourages superiors to make unchallenged decisions, civilian organizations may not respond to this leadership style much longer.

The first formal study of leadership, including the autocratic style, is credited to Kurt Lewin and others in an article that appeared in the “American Journal of Sociology” inthe 1930s. Lewin and his colleagues found autocratic leaders:

  • Generally do not solicit or accept input from others for decision-making purposes
  • Make all company or group decisions
  • Mandate all workplace methods, policies and procedures
  • Can exhibit a lack of trust in the advice, suggestions, ideas and decision-making ability of others

Autocratic leadership has pluses and minuses. The prevailing view is that the style depends on the ability of oneperson while disregarding the input of other skilled people. Still, many workplaces can benefit from autocratic leadership.

Who works well under autocratic leaders?

Individuals who march to the beat of their own drum generally dont work well under autocratic leaders

By comparison, people who can successfully lead a couple dozen diverse, figurative drummers to stay in sync and keep rhythm without missing a beat make excellent autocratic leaders.

Howto leverage the autocratic style to manage successfully

After centuries as the standard management style, autocratic leadership can still succeed in the contemporary arena if leaders keep the following in mind:

  • Respect subordinates. Exhibit fairness, objectivity and show respect for co-workers. They will see or feel it. Leaders’ respect for others engenders mutual respect, which helps  defuse workplace discord.
  • Communicate andexplain. Most employees realize autocratic leaders expect them to obey rules and follow procedures. Communicating details helps staff understand the rules. In turn, they are less likely to rebel and more likely to cooperate.
  • Practice consistency. Employees respect fairness and unbiased treatment. In light of the potential distrust that autocratic leadership may foster, treating all staff consistently generates trust and earns respect.
  • Allowopinions. Encourage staff to express themselves. Permitting employees to offer suggestions is a valuable component of success among autocratic leaders. Even if ideas aren’t adopted, people appreciate the freedom to share their thoughts.

Advantages and disadvantages of autocratic leadership

Many different forms of autocratic leadership exist. Those in charge of modern manufacturing departments can be anything from strict authoritarian military commanders like Napoleon and Patton to them.

At its worst, autocratic leadership can be stifling, overbearing and demoralizing

At its best, the autocratic style is liberating for people who work well with clear directives under leaders who understand exactly what people do and why their roles are important

For anyone placed in a position that requires an autocratic leadership style, it’s helpful to identify pitfalls that can cause staff to question whether it is the right approach.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages to the autocratic leadership style:

Autocratic leadership pros

  • Effective when decisions must come quickly, without time to consult others
  • Prevents businesses or projects from becoming stagnant because of poor organization or lack of leadership
  • Keeps individuals, groups or teams from missing important deadlines
  • During stressful periods, autocratic leaders can be more effective, and theirteams appreciate their leadership

Autocratic leadership cons

  • Invites potential abuse by overly powerful personalities
  • Can stifle staff and discourage team creativity
  • Modern employees may not react well to authoritarian leadership
  • Can discourage open communication between leaders and subordinates

Benefits of autocratic leadership

Exceptional leaders adopt the style that fits their vision, behaviorand personality. The autocratic leadership style still works well in some institutions, such as the military, manufacturing, restaurants and companies with aggressive sales quotas.

The downside of autocratic leadership

Autocratic leadership isn’t as prevalent as it once was for several reasons. These include:

  • Better-educated workforces and the growth of knowledge-based industries that encourage decision-making at all levels
  • Mentoring as aleadership style, popular among millennials who generally frown on authoritarians
  • Democratic, laissez-faire and transformative leadership styles that incorporate many levels of decision-makers

The upside to autocratic leadership

As we move further into the 21st century, now is a good time to reassess the age-old benefits of autocratic leadership

People who dislike this style often point to its demoralizing my way or the highway mentality Butwe shouldnt be quick to abandon autocratic leadership when its appropriate

Even creative businesses — such as advertising, product design and social media firms — reach a point when autocratic leadership is necessary. When a marketing campaign, advertising program or product design moves into the launch phase, for example, its success or failure hinges on precision timing.

That’s where autocratic leadership comes into play.

Whether it’s an athletic shoe company like Nike ora social media powerhouse like Facebook, autocratic leadership is sometimes vital. Autocratic leaders help guarantee deadlines are met by training people properly to assume responsibility for their respective roles and to reach their goals.

At the end of the day, autocratic leadership shares the same objectives as other styles Its all about achieving success


Leonard D. Shaeffer,“The Leadership Journey,” Harvard Business Review

Additional Question — What is meant by autocratic leadership?

What is the best leadership style?

1. Authoritative Leadership. The authoritative leader knows the mission, is confident in working toward it, and empowers team members to take charge just as she is. The authoritative leader uses vision to drive strategy and encourages team members to use their strengths and emerge as leaders themselves.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of autocratic leadership?

Decision-making is made more quickly under autocratic leadership. Better communication Productivity is increased. Crisis management that works. decreases workplace stress Perfect To Combat Team Inexperience.

What are the characteristics of a democratic leader?

According to research, effective democratic leaders exhibit particular qualities like being a team player, being adaptable, having a fair mind, and participating in the process. 3 Democratic leaders who are effective instill their followers with faith and esteem.

What are three essential characteristics of a good leader?

What Are the Characteristics of a Good Leader?
Learning Agility.

What are the characteristics of authoritative management style?

Authoritative leaders give direction and vision; they approach projects and initiatives with assurance. As their team members work toward the objectives of the organization, they provide them with clear direction and helpful criticism based on their clear vision of what success looks like.

What are the 4 basic leadership styles?

Autocratic leadership styles are one type. Democratic. Laissez-faire. Transformational.

What is the best leadership style for successful managers today?

Management StylesResults-based Leaders who exercise results-based management styles understand their goals Autocratic An autocratic management style can be characterised by the way communication flows from the top down Authoritative Participative Coaching Transformational Collaborative Visionary

What are the main leadership styles?

Democratic leadership is one of several types of leadership. This is as obvious as its name. autocratic management. Laissez-faire Leadership Strategic Management. Leading with transformation. Relational Leadership Leading in a coach-like manner. Administrative Leadership.

What skill should a leader have?

What Characterizes a Successful Leader. Effective leaders are able to motivate their team, handle and delegate tasks, listen to feedback, and have the flexibility to solve issues in a workplace that is constantly changing. When hiring individuals for leadership positions, employers look for these qualities.

What is core leadership?

Core leadership competencies are specific skills that leaders should develop to effectively guide their teams There are three general categories that core leadership competencies fall under: Interpersonal core competencies influence how a leader interacts with their team and how team members interact with each other

How do you lead a team?

How to lead a team as a first-Accept that you will still have lots to learn Communicate clearly Always keep your team fully informed of project goals, priorities and those all-important deadlines Set a good example Encourage Feedback Offer recognition Be decisive Help your team see the big

Dannie Jarrod

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