Autocratic leadership is very similar to the authoritarian leadership style. In this type of leadership, the rules and procedures that teams use are quite rigid. That means there is a priority on consistency, with each team member performing their job functions in a similar way.
That consistency leads toward corporate success. Although creativity, independent thinking, and new processes are included as part of the overall leadership style, their implementation is not a top priority.
The competencies of the leader practicing autocratic leadership become the foundation for future success. Good leaders can produce great results. Bad leaders can put a company out of business.
Although this form of leadership is often found within the government, it is also present in some corporate structures as well. Here are the key advantages and disadvantages of autocratic leadership to consider.
List of the Advantages of the Autocratic Leadership Style
1. The autocratic style provides fast crisis management benefits.
An autocratic leader is well-equipped to deal with a crisis situation. They can easily manage these issues because they’re the only ones who get to call the shots. Their expertise becomes an asset to the company, even being able to fill-in during a shortfall to immediately correct a problem in virtually any situation. This helps to resolve the emergencies rather effectively when compared to other leadership styles.
2. Decisions can be made faster with this leadership style.
Autocratic leaders don’t deal with the hassle of multiple leadership levels. They aren’t required to wait for the feedback from senior managers or consult with a leadership team. There is just one person in charge. That means a decision is made on the timetable of the leader and no one else. This is an advantage because team members can continue projects, move deadlines, and remove obstacles that could negatively impact their overall productivity.
3. It removes the pressure on the employees.
Autocratic leaders take the pressure off of their teams because they are fully responsible for the decisions that are made. Some employees don’t like the idea of being asked to make an important decision about the future of the company. Some people don’t like the idea of coming up with new ideas. They just want to come to work, do what they’re told, then go home at the end of the day with a paycheck. The autocratic leadership style does a good job of facilitating this process.
4. Productivity levels can see increases with this leadership style.
Autocratic leaders are often charged with information movement. They use their personal experiences to form rules or regulations that translate into step-by-step instructions for workers to follow. When there is clear direction, with a path toward success, offered to workers, then they are able to focus on productivity instead of problem solving. There are fewer delays because best practices are being followed consistently. In time, this may result in fewer errors, which can provide a boost to revenues.
5. Inexperienced teams can still produce experienced results.
When the autocratic leadership style is used with an inexperienced team, the experience of the leader can replace the skill gap that is present. Each person benefits from the regulated competencies that are offered by the leader. They can replicate results because they are given specific instructions to follow. If there isn’t enough time to develop personal skills or learn something new, then autocratic leaders are still able to get the job done.
6. It is a leadership style that is very easy to learn.
There is nothing complicated about the autocratic leadership style. It is a style which dictates how people are supposed to work. In many ways, it could be described as, “Do it my way or go hit the highway.” Workers get the job done, or else they go find a different job. This leadership style doesn’t have a specific training forum to attend or require knowledge of a specific theory of leadership. There is no need to recognize emotions, respond to personal issues, or find other ways of motivation.
7. Safety is a top priority within the autocratic leadership style.
There are some work environments which require a high level of control. There may be dangerous situations or working environments which require complicated tasks to be completed. These environments allow for an error margin of zero. When an autocratic leadership style is used in these situations, then the control the policies and procedures provide encourage a deeper commitment to safety.
8. This leadership style can produce authoritative short-term results.
Many companies tend to turn to an autocratic leadership style when they need to create short-term results in an urgent way. When a company crisis occurs, a leader with authoritative traits can begin to call the shots to make immediate changes. This allow for a quick turn-around of the issue, helping the company to begin pursuing its mission once again.
9. It is a leadership style that can be applied in three different ways.
Although the autocratic leadership style is often viewed as being a directive relationship between the leader and the team member, there are two other varieties found with this style. In the directing format, the subordinates of the leader are told what to do, how to do it, and when the deadline happens to be. In the permissive version, the autocratic leader still makes the final decision, but extends some flexibility to their direct reports in how tasks are completed. In the paternalistic form, the core characteristics of this leadership style are used, with an added emphasis on worker wellbeing as part of the experience.
10. It creates focused targets for everyone.
Through close supervision and an emphasis on order and discipline, the autocratic leadership style allows everyone to focus on specific goals or targets to reach. Open lines of communication ensure that everyone on the team is working toward the same goal. People who step out of this line are quickly identified and brought back into the fold. This creates more speed, better productivity, and enhanced efficiencies within the workplace.
List of the Disadvantages of the Autocratic Leadership Style
1. Autocratic leaders are often micromanagers.
When a leader is asked to operate in an authoritarian manner, it is difficult to turn that role on and off on-demand. That means many leaders practicing this leadership style eventually turn into micromanagers, even if that is not their intent. They must control the consistency at a personal level, which means they can no longer afford to give their team any freedom to operate. Strict compliance becomes necessary.
2. There can be a lack of accountability within its structures.
There are two reasons why the autocratic leadership style encourages an overall lack of accountability. The first involves the work that gets done. When the leaders are taking ownership for the quality of the completed work, there is no opportunity for team members to do so. The second involves a leader refusing to take responsibility for work they personally instructed a worker to complete. Both issues decrease worker morale and put blame on someone, even though the issue may not be their fault.
3. It may create an unwelcome culture within the organization.
The quality of a team, structure, or organization practicing autocratic leadership is dependent upon the ethics of the leader in charge. If that leader does not create a fair working environment, then it is difficult for any employees to change that environment. Within autocratic structures, there may not be anyone who has the authority to make a rogue leader accountable to the company to stop their behavior. That means the personal morality of the leader becomes the corporate reality of the business.
4. The autocratic leadership style is highly dependent upon the leader.
One of the primary reasons why the autocratic leadership style tends to fail is because it is fully dependent upon the skills and knowledge of the leader. If that leader goes away, then the team is unable to function because they were focused on their role. A team can become so dependent upon the leader that they stop functioning when their directions are no longer present. For that reason, some entities using this structure create an inheritance chain which allows another person to step into the leadership role right away.
5. It is a leadership style that is based on a lack of trust.
Rules are placed for employees to follow in an autocratic leadership style because there is a need to create consistency. That “need” is generated by an overall lack of trust. To be effective, people need to work in an environment where there is a trusting partnership. Autocratic leaders can’t make trust a priority because they are forced to make the rules be the priority. That means the partnerships formed by the workers are with the rules, not with people, and that helps to drive down morale over time.
6. This leadership style makes it difficult to correct poor results.
If the results an autocratic leader achieves do not meet corporate expectations, then it can be difficult to correct the issue. Many companies have been forced to completely reset their under-performing teams because the leadership in place formed the identity of everyone involved. Because all decisions are made by the leader, a new leader must be brought in, which requires everyone to start from scratch.
7. It increases the work burden for the leader.
In most autocratic leadership structures, the leader is responsible for every action of the team. A review of the team’s work falls on their shoulders. They must make every decision for the team. That means leaders using this style tend to be busier than other leaders. Even if low-skill tasks need to get done, it is the leader’s responsibility to make sure someone makes copies, gets coffee, or files documents properly.
8. Autocratic leaders ignore the skills of competent workers.
Most autocratic leaders will not take the opinions, experiences, or knowledge of their team members into account when making decisions. Even if the leader is not knowledgeable in the area, they are forced into a position where they must decide. That means workers who are highly skilled or motivated begin to lose their incentives to stay active under this leadership structure. It is a negative cycle which only increases when the leader makes a poor decision that could have been avoided if a team consultation occurred.
9. It can be a joyless experience for team members.
There are high levels of frustration often found in an autocratic environment, even if workers are inexperienced. The productivity levels may be higher, but with no say in the process, resentment will quickly build. It gets even worse if workers can voice an opinion that is never utilized. People only thrive here is there is no investment in what they do.
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.