Autocratic leader or authoritarian leadership is a type in which organizational leaders have absolute power over their workers or teams they lead. This style characterizes the leader who does not allow group members to participate in decisions, so that he ends up dominating and inducing submissive responses from members.
It comes from the Greek auto (self) and kratos (government or power), so it is a system of government in which the will of an individual, in this case the leader, is the law, given that the authority rests only with him.
This way, the members of the organization themselves have no (or very limited) opportunities to suggest things, even if they are for the benefit of the organization itself.
The autocratic leader tells subordinates what he expects of them, specifies the work to be done and the goals to be achieved, and gives specific guidance on how to achieve them.
One of the authors, Richard Shell of Ohio University, stated that there are four basic styles of leadership: autocratic, bureaucratic, liberal, and democratic.
Features of an autocratic leader
Within autocratic leadership, we find different characteristics, among which we highlight:
He is the one who marks everything within the organization
In this type of leadership, it is the leader in charge of establishing everything within the organization (defines the objectives, the way forward, etc.).
He doesn’t believe in the initiative of the rest of the group, so he doesn’t encourage it either. He believes that he is the only competent one and that others are not capable of solving themselves.
The leader is a vigilante who knows everything and is above all other people’s initiatives.
The leader has centralized all authority and relies on legitimate power to apply both rewards and coercive power. It is inward oriented.
The leader centralizes decisions to effectively order the work teams and thus achieve the objectives proposed by the organization.
He expects everyone in the organization to obey him. This leader asks subordinates to obey and follow his decisions.
Take full responsibility for decision making
All decisions rest with him, who unilaterally decides everything related to the organization, limiting the participation of all subordinates.
He makes all decisions in the organization focused on control and authority.
Grant rewards or punishments to your subordinates
Based on legitimate power, it is he who rewards and punishes subordinates.
Coercion is one of the main characteristics of this leadership and refers to the leader‘s exercise of power over subordinates, since the leader is the authority.
Emphasis on command and control
These types of leaders emphasize control. They are usually loners and specialize in certain areas.
They are leaders who supervise all activities carried out by the worker, so that they meet previously established standards.
Great knowledge of the organization
They tend to be very knowledgeable about the organization, concerned about competitors, and focused on controlling the organization in detail.
They are concerned with the long-term organization.
Initiating actions, directing and controlling subordinates
The autocratic leader is the one who directs subordinates, as he considers that he is the most competent when directing and making all decisions.
Watch his subordinates to avoid deviations from the guidelines he has proposed.
Sensitive to organizational goals
Following the organizational leadership and typology of leaders by Blake and Mouton, autocratic leaders would be those who are not very sensitive to people, but, on the contrary, are very sensitive to the organization’s goals.
That is, they are poorly people-oriented, but very oriented towards the results of the organization.
Motivation for personal power
Autocratic leaders are characterized by seeking prestige and a strong motivation for personal power.
Advantages of the autocratic leader
High performance with the leader present
One of the first studies on leadership was conducted by Kurt Lewin at the University of Iowa and compared autocratic leaders with more democratic ones. This experiment showed that those groups with autocratic leaders performed high when the leader was present.
However, this study showed that democratic leaders also found good performance and did not show as many drawbacks.
Apparently, the results obtained may be good when starting the tasks, but over time the environment ends up becoming tense and with harmful consequences.
Members have no responsibilities
The main advantage of working with an autocratic leader is that the subordinates know that it is the leader who will make the decisions and they must obey only what he marks.
They should just listen to you and do the job assigned to them so they don’t have to think of solutions to solve them.
Effective results can be achieved.
The established schedules for carrying out the activities are complied with, given the control exercised by the leader.
Daily deliveries are generally met, since workers prioritize what the leader requires to achieve the proposed goals and, therefore, do not retaliate.
It is appropriate when workers lack initiative or are immature
Autocratic leaders can be important in certain organizations, as they fulfill what the company requires according to the policies they have established.
Some workers lack their own initiative, and in such cases having an authority that supervises and directs them can lead them to work better, especially in cases where a large amount of money is handled and mistakes can be very costly.
May be appropriate in emergency situations
Autocratic leadership may be appropriate in emergency situations where a problem must be resolved quickly and efficiently.
Another advantage of autocratic leadership is that it is simplified, everything goes through one person who controls the entire process.
In addition, workers are supervised at all times, which makes it less likely that they will be wrong or do the job poorly.
Disadvantages of the Autocratic Leader
One of the disadvantages of authoritarian leadership is that members of the organization may feel resentful, unimportant, or uncomfortable with the treatment they receive.
The same study by Kurt Lewin regarding autocratic style showed that group members were hostile. The sense of responsibility is evaporated, because they are not able to act on their own initiative.
Not communicating with group members and only doing so when there is a problem can be very frustrating for them.
Absenteeism at work or staff turnover
You may find high levels of absenteeism, employee turnover in the company as workers are not comfortable in this type of leadership.
In addition, the climate must be managed properly, otherwise workers may get tired of the organization’s authoritarianism and leave, taking the acquired knowledge to another company.
Lack of creativity and innovation in members
As responsibility is low and the ability to make decisions as well, in this type of leadership the subordinate has limited capacity to be creative and innovative.
As they are not the ones who solve the problems, nor do they come up with creative solutions to solve them.
Employees and their capabilities are not taken into account as they are not exploited or taken into account. The lack of communication also ends up hurting her.
Leaders’ decisions inhibit new ideas; therefore, the ideas are also not said because it is known that they will not be taken into account.
stress on subordinates
It is possible to generate, through this type of leadership, an important source of stress that ends up contributing to the deterioration of the mental and physical health of the group members and that also harms the work environment.
They don’t feel part of the organization
Group members do not feel that they are members of the organization and therefore their sense of belonging is affected.
People feel that they are not important in the organization and that their work is not important either. They don’t feel valued because the leader doesn’t take them into account in decisions concerning the organization.
Affect on the organizational climate
The autocratic leader maintains a communication with his subordinates that can generate problems in the members.
Authoritarian leaders tend to be impulsive, tell subordinates what they think or feel, and often feel treated unfairly, which sometimes affects their work.
It also affects the climate of the organization, so subordinates end up afraid to address the leader.
A happy person ends up being more productive, feels comfortable in the company, with its principles, the values it conveys and the leader who directs it, and therefore ends up benefiting the organization.
Sometimes, and related to the above, when people are not comfortable in the organization and feel pressured, productivity can end up being lower.
Productivity improves when there are good relationships between members, leaders care about their members (both professional and personal).
Success or failure depends on the effectiveness of the leader
How everything ends up leading the leader, success or failure depends on it.
In this way, although they can complete the task quickly, other styles of leadership, such as the democratic, although they take longer to execute them, the end result is usually greater creativity and originality, in addition to not needing the leader to complete the task.
Some examples of autocratic leaders
Some examples of famous autocratic leaders are found in Margaret Thatcher or Steve Jobs, for example.
They are leaders who pretended to have everything under their control and where all decisions were made by themselves.
It is important that the leader knows how to lead the team in which he moves, he must be disciplined and committed, but he must also know and take into account the members of the group.
You should know what their opinions and needs are, as taking them into account can also benefit the entire organization.