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Autocratic (or authoritarian) leadership: advantages and disadvantages

Autocratic (or authoritarian) leadership: advantages and disadvantages

October 1, 2022

One of the topics that social psychology or the psychology of organizations has been most interested in is leadership, and in these subdisciplines of behavioral science many investigations have gone in that direction.

How does leadership affect our occupational health? And to our performance? These are some of the questions that researchers have raised and to which they have tried to answer.

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The interest of psychology to understand leadership styles

The type of leadership exercised by supervisors will always have consequences for workers (or subordinates if we are not talking about the workplace). Usually, it is usual to talk about negative or positive leadership styles depending on the consequences on subordinates . For example, the transformational leadership style is considered positive because it takes into account the needs of the workers and positively influences the reduction of stress.

However, we must bear in mind that the situation will determine whether a leadership style is good or bad, because depending on the type of tasks to be carried out, the profile of the employees, etc., there will be certain advantages and disadvantages in that determined context, in that particular organization, to apply one style or another successfully.

In this article let's review the most important characteristics of autocratic leadership and we will expose its advantages and disadvantages.

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Autocratic leadership: what is it?

The autocratic leadership style is one of the most common in companies . It is characterized as a unidirectional style of leadership, in which the superiors make the decisions and set the guidelines without the participation of the group. The leader agglutinates the power and the employees obey his orders.

Outside the workplace, autocratic leadership is the leadership used by dictators and therefore does not enjoy very good reputation. Authoritarian leadership has received many criticisms because of several factors:

  • Historically, autocratic leadership has been associated with tyrants and dictators.
  • Autocratic leadership has become a characteristic style for supervisors who lack skills, training and experience and, of course, have shortcomings at the communicative level.
  • Currently, the expectations of workers have changed and the motivating leaders are more suitable for environments with experienced staff.
  • Some people feel uncomfortable working for autocratic leaders because they think that authoritarianism exists, despite being an adequate management style to train inexperienced personnel or implement consistent quality control processes.

Despite the fact that in the last decades other styles of leadership enjoy greater popularity (for example, democratic leadership), The truth is that the autocratic style also has its advantages .

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Characteristics of the autocratic leader

The autocratic leaders present different characteristics that define them. They are the following:

  • They are clear in expectations of what should be done and what and how things should be done
  • It is strongly oriented to the command and control of employees
  • It is unidirectional . Superiors make decisions and subordinates follow orders without being able to express their opinion
  • The leader centralizes all the authority
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Autocratic leadership is beneficial if it is used in situations where there is little time to make group decisions or the leader is the most experienced member of the group. Therefore, when it is necessary to make quick and decisive decisions, it is the best alternative. For example, in professions where there are emergency situations: paramedics, military, police, firemen, etc.

Also, autocratic leadership can be effective with employees who require close monitoring of their tasks, as this prevents them from relaxing, and improves the performance, productivity and speed with which the latter carry out their work


Criticism towards this style of leadership is based on a series of disadvantages that are a consequence of the application of this type of leadership. The authoritarian leader does not take into account the opinion of workers and employees , because for him they are simply individuals who must abide by his orders.Many employees may feel despised and underestimated, even making the decision to leave the company.

Studies have shown that some workers perform less with this type of leadership and, as scientific data shows, has a greater negative impact on stress (or burnout) and the well-being of workers, unlike other types of leadership as the transformational. It is nothing recommended for companies in which their intellectual capital is creativity.

Other leadership styles

Today, Many companies choose other styles of leadership, such as the transformer or the democratic , because authoritarian leadership limits the development of its workers. In addition, the expectations of workers have changed in recent decades, and workers are increasingly demanding. As discussed, but the success or failure of a leadership style will be determined by the situation, and while one leadership style may be good for one organization, it may not be good for another.

The leadership styles most used in companies today, in addition to authoritarian leadership, are:

  • Democratic leadership
  • Laissez-faire leadership
  • Transactional leadership
  • Transformational leadership
  • If you want to delve into these leadership styles, you can visit our article: "Types of Leadership: The 5 most common leader classes"

Advantages/Disadvantages of autocratic and democratic leadership (October 2022).

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