11 Famous Autocratic Leaders

A lot of the most famous autocratic leaders are not those who were wanted by people ruling over them. Typically, these individuals are defined by having utmost control over others, rarely accepting feedback or input, yet demanding full accountability from other people when success is not realized. They would make decisions with the goal of serving their own needs first and would rely on the fear of discipline in order to motivate others to achieve success that is needed. From corporate heads to national leaders, here are some of the most famous autocratic leaders:

1. Ridley Scott

In the world where Box Office has achieved major success, Scott is regarded as one of the few Hollywood directors who have made profitable and critically acclaimed movies. A short list of the films he has created includes “Alien”, “Blade Runner”, “White Squall”, “Thelma & Louise”, “American Ganster”, “Gladiator”, “Prometheus”, “American Gangster” and his most recent “Exodus: Gods and Kings”. With a reputation as a perfectionist, Scott started his career as a graphic designer, and as a director, he would expect his actors to know their positions, lines and cues before he directs the camera to start rolling.

2. Idi Amin

Before Amin became the 3rd president of Uganda, ruling the country for 8 years, during the 1970s, he was a major general in the country’s army after he served in the King’s African Rifles, where he was promoted as a field marshal. As president, his leadership was characterized by mismanagement and suppression, where it was believed that about half a million people were killed during his reign. After he lost a war with Tanzania in an attempt to conquer more lands, he was exiled outside of the country until he died.

3. Lorne Michaels

Michaels is one of the most influential figures in the 20th century, who changed TV comedy and the American culture in an extraordinary and subtle way. He was the creative producer of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”, who launched a lot of comedians’ careers, including those of Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Gilda Radner and Will Ferrell. As a producer, his best quality was his instinct to tap into America’s pulse and his ability to get the most out of talents. He was also demanding, but he embodies the best aspects in autocratic leadership.

4. Bashar al-Assad

Since 2000, al-Assad has ruled Syria in a way that many would describe as “iron fist”. Though he was initially thought of as a specialist in government reform, he brought sieges to prevent protestors, which eventually led to a civil war. He has been involved in war crimes against humanity, but he is still serving his third 7-year term as Syria’s president.

5. Roger Ailes

Ailes had a reputation of being an autocratic leader as president of the Fox News Channel, while working as an advisor to President Richard Nixon in the late 1960s. He started his career in TV broadcasting before shifting to political consulting. Though he was regarded as controversial and authoritarian, Ailes was a successful executive who redefined news broadcasting through his autocratic style of leadership.

6. Caligula

Originally known as Gaius, this Roman emperor is known as Caligula by many people just after the time of Jesus. Only serving for 4 years, he was the first Roman emperor to be assassinated because of his work to increase the personal role of the ruling office. Mostly, his reign was defined by cruelty and the desire to live in sadism and extravagance, with efforts made to create ambitious projects that would only benefit himself.

7. Helen Gurley Brown

Brown is the former editor-in-chief of the magazine “Cosmopolitan”, who is known for many things, including her ability to consistently publish and turn profit for more than 30 years. Assuming the helm of the popular magazine, she revolutionized the women’s fashion market, which leveraged her position to influence and reflect the American culture. She was known as a task master who thrives on getting things done with minimal faults.

8. Pol Pot

Pot is the leader of the Khmer Rouge for more than 3 decades, including a good portion as the General Secretary for the Local Communist Party of Kampuchea, and then the leader of Cambodia in 1975 after he captured the capital. During his reign, there was a radical transition to forced socialism, which included forced labor, collective farming and executions, where 25% of his country’s population was killed during the time.

9. John Chambers

Chambers was the chairman of Cisco Systems, and under his leadership for 25 years, the relatively unknown Silicon Valley company has evolved into an estimated $47 billion business, dominating the networking industry, mostly thanks to his autocratic leadership where no detail was too small for his attention. Today, the company’s stock is a bellwether holding that is used to measure the US economy.

10. Ivan the Terrible

Reigning over Russia for more than 5 decades, Ivan oversaw the conquest of many territories, making the country one of the biggest in the world at the time. His autocratic leadership was characterized by power consolidation due to an immense sense of paranoia. It was often defined by the Massacre of Novgorod, where about 60,000 people were said to be killed just to prove that Ivan was in charge.

11. Tony La Russa

La Russa is one of the coaches having the most wins in Major League Baseball, as manager of the Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox. He won 3 world championships, 6 league championships and 12 division titles during the 33 seasons where he was coaching his teams. Though La Russa was seen as laid-back in the field, he was constantly studying and strategizing his players.

As the world moves on further into the 21st century, it would be high time to re-assess the benefits of autocratic leadership. Those who do not like this approach would often point to its demoralizing mentality, but it is important to consider not to quickly abandon it when it is appropriate. At the end of the day, autocratic leaders share the same objectives as other types of leaders, which is all about achieving success.

Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.