The authoritarian leadership style is focused solely on the leader. It is a style that is characterized by personal control over all decisions that must be made for a team. Leaders using this style rarely take input from their team members when making decisions.
These leaders prefer to make choices that are based on their own experiences, judgments, and ideas. They maintain absolute control over the group, requiring unquestioning support over the policies and procedures that are in place for every project. The work tends to be rigid and structured, with creativity often discouraged.
Rules are important to this leadership style. They are clearly outlined and communicated. There is an expectation that they will be followed all the time.
As with any leadership style, those practicing the authoritarian leadership style bring a series of advantages and disadvantages worth considering.
List of the Advantages of Authoritarian Leadership
1. It produces consistent results in small-group situations.
When working in a small group, there can be a leadership void. You might find yourself with everyone thinking of themselves as a leader. Some groups might have no one stepping up to a leadership role. When the authoritarian leadership style is brought into the situation, then the direction provided by the leader can produce results. This creates solid deadlines, task assignments, and higher levels of quality control.
2. It reduces the time needed to make decisions.
Leaders using the authoritarian leadership style often make decisions on their own. They do not consult with other people on their team. This can be useful when there is an emergency situation being faced. Instead of being forced to navigate through multiple levels of bureaucracy, as some leadership styles encourage, an authoritarian leader makes the decision, so the team can get to work right away.
3. It places all the pressure on the leader.
Many teams work in situations that can be very stressful. When there is a lot of pressure surrounding a team, the authoritarian style is preferred because each team member can focus on their specialty. Only the leader is tasked with the responsibility of making complex decisions. Because every person on the team can be extremely specialized, the results a team can produce have the potential to outperform other leadership styles.
4. It creates a consistent result.
Many industries require specific instructions to be followed to create results. You will often see authoritarian leadership styles in play within the construction and manufacturing industries. These industries have defined tasks which must be completed consistently and to exact specifications. These leaders excel within this environment because they are able to control implementation procedures, creating an environment where safety rules are followed and production metrics are met.
5. It creates clarity within the chain-of-command.
When an authoritarian leadership style is being used, there are few questions as to who is in charge. This reduces the chances of one employee trying to advise a team to work in one way, while others are trying to advise another way to work. This clarity creates instructions which allow for a more efficient performance because the model is rigid. One cannot assume a leadership role unless they are directed to do so.
6. It can provide a boost in productivity.
When processes are clear for team members, then everyone on the team is able to set their focus on the tasks that they are asked to do. There is no requirement to think about the instructions or how to complete a task. That translates to a better performance because it removes uncertainty from the situation. The energy that would be directed toward problem-solving can be directed toward the work that needs to be done.
7. It can reduce the number of mistakes which occur.
When an authoritarian leadership style is being used, the framing of a project will typically lead to fewer overall mistakes. That is because all team members have pre-determined instructions to follow as they pursue a specific objective. Risks are diminished because only the best processes are included in the instructions to be followed. Clear instructions also reduce the risks that individual team might be willing to take on their own.
List of the Disadvantages of Authoritarian Leadership
1. It may cause some employees to rebel.
Managers who are practicing an authoritarian leadership style are often viewed as being controlling and bossy. Some might describe this as being “dictatorial.” Some people resent being told exactly what to do, how to do it, and when it needs to be done because it removes their personal control from the situation. Even if they complete the instructions correctly, if the leader is wrong, then the blame may fall on them instead of their manager.
2. It reduces the amount of group input received.
Some authoritarian leaders like to talk with their direct reports to receive a diverse set of opinions before making decisions. Many do not. Authoritarian leaders tend to suppress creativity because they do not consult with their team. There may be team members who resent the fact that their experience is not being consulted as part of the decision-making process. When there is an overall lack of creativity from the leader as well, this disadvantage can actually hurt the overall performance of the group.
3. It creates moments of insecurity within the leadership.
Authoritarian leaders build themselves up on the concept that they are the most experienced and knowledgeable for the situations they will face. This is not always the case. Some teams have highly experienced members who are very knowledgeable about the situations that may be faced in the future. Because these leaders often fail to consult with their group, the chances for success may be reduced. Highly experienced team members can also make leaders feel insecure about themselves, which can further reduce team performance.
4. It may impair the morale of the group.
Many people tend to work better when they feel or know that their contributions to the team are making a positive impact. If the authoritarian leader makes them feel like their contributions are not welcome, then they may begin to feel dissatisfied with their circumstances. They might feel stifled by the expectations placed on them. If this occurs frequently, it is possible for highly skilled workers to seek out new forms of employment because they wish to rid themselves of their leader.
5. It creates a lack of feedback.
With the authoritarian leadership style, the leaders are not asked to provide the same levels of feedback that other styles may require. This may cause the development track of some team members to suffer, stall, or be eliminated altogether. Each person is required to follow a pre-determined set of tasks. There is no need for further improvement if they are able to do so, which means there is no push or challenge to become better once this ceiling is reached. When employees begin to feel like they’ve stalled out, they may look for a different job where they can acquire more knowledge.
6. It encourages a higher churn rate.
When a team member feels like they’ve given everything and there is no way forward for the future, then they will start looking for new challenges. The chain-of-command within the authoritarian leadership style is very clear. If there is no way to push forward, then people tend to look for opportunities where they can. As team members gain more experience in what they do, it becomes more difficult for authoritarian leaders to inspire loyalty within their direct reports.
7. It causes everyone to rely on the experience of the leader.
An organization and a team are both dependent upon the expertise and knowledge that an authoritarian leader brings to the table. That makes the leader indispensable to the vision of the future that an organization may have. It also means that a leader who begins to fall behind on industry standards will cause an organization to begin suffering. This creates a tunnel vision toward the wrong outcomes because there are no other voices available who can change the process.
8. It eliminates innovation from the process.
The only innovation permitted within the authoritarian leadership style is that which the leader allows. If the leader feels like a new idea might threaten their role, then it can be excluded. Authoritarian leaders often look to consolidate power to prevent someone else from being able to take their position in the future. Without a strong vision that includes the team and the organization, the focus of the leader can be internal instead of external.
The advantages and disadvantages of the authoritarian leadership style show that company profits may benefit from this option. Deadlines can be met more frequently while risk-taking is reduced from the equation. At the same time, this leadership style may also contribute to higher churn rates, a lack of creativity, and an overall lack of personal challenge.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send Natalie a message here.