Autocratic Leadership: What is It, and Where is It Effective?

By Dickson Osas

The autocratic leadership format can be the most controversial of all leadership types. After all, the stakes are high when all decisions—from the simplest to the most critical—are made by just one person.

Throughout history, autocratic leadership has not had much room for variation. The leading people who let themselves be carried away by the power to make all the decisions and used it around their ideals became tyrannical dictators. However, others have managed to navigate through times of crisis and survive a chaotic context.

Thus, there is a reason that this type of leadership still exists and is replicated in companies today. Want to know more about this controversial way of running a team or company? So, come with us, and we will present all the necessary information for you to become an expert in autocratic leadership; check it out:

Good reading!

What is authoritarian leadership?

Autocratic leadership is a form of management based on decision-making power centered on a single person. This lead person usually accepts little or no interference from others on the team or at a lower organizational level than they.

Decisions are made based on the experience, vision, and opinion of the leader who occupies this position, as he generally has well-established decision-making, critical thinking, security skills, and extensive experience in the subject.

How does autocratic leadership work?

Typically, autocratic leadership comes from a solid organizational structure, where there must be an automatic and objective understanding of roles, duties, and tasks by all collaborating people. This is critical, or leadership will be doomed to deal with a team that quickly becomes demotivated and overwhelmed.

In this way, there may be space for arguments and dialogues, as long as everything passes through the evaluation and decision of a single person. However, this exchange of information is not so valued and cultivated in this form of leadership since there is no room for questioning.

Where to use autocratic leadership?

Autocratic leadership is mainly used in three main situations:

1. Small companies

Most of the time, this type of leadership is found in companies that have just started and don’t yet have significant and numerous teams to manage. Typically, the level of complexity is lower, as is the number of people collaborating. This way, it is easier for the director or CEO to meet with their team, delegating tasks of how they want their business to be structured.

2. When there is a need for quick decisions

If your company is in a critical period where decisions or mistakes can be costly, autocratic leadership can help. After all, with the owner or a leader representing the company’s main interests deciding the best course to take, this streamlines the process and makes more significant progress.

3. In times of crisis

When the company faces a pivotal moment in its development when the stakes are high, and not much can be risked, autocratic leadership provides the kind of control and guidance that changes the game, and the company stabilizes again. After all, it’s easier and faster for one person to make decisions than for several people trying to prove their point to get somewhere.

Attention: Note that, in most cases, the situations in which autocratic leadership fits are transient; that is, they have a beginning, middle, and end. The reason for this is that this model applied in the long term makes collaborating people not feel motivated and valued in their positions. Therefore, it is recommended to be used only to obtain results quickly. Then, another form of leadership can be adopted after the stabilization point.

What are the advantages of autocratic leadership?

  • Complex and challenging decisions can be made quickly;
  • Tasks are carefully evaluated and inspected, ensuring a good result;
  • Ease of locating problems;
  • More specific and defined tasks for collaborating people;
  • Shorter process execution time;
  • Effectiveness in dealing with difficult or crisis periods;
  • Better defined hierarchical roles;
  • It makes the process much more predictable and easier to follow.

What are the disadvantages of autocratic leadership?

  • Not very flexible work environment;
  • More significant turnover of collaborating people, as they can quickly run out;
  • Little room for changes and innovations;
  • Hardly collaborating people will develop cooperativeness or teamwork;
  • Uniting people can be inhibited and have their personal and professional development paused, causing a feeling of stagnation;
  • Little empathy, after all, respect will be more associated with fear.

Autocratic leadership vs. democratic vs. liberal: which is better?

From the start, we can define one thing: no leadership is better than the other. Each leader will be ideal when a series of factors are considered, such as size, vision, objective, priorities, etc. Thus, each company must know what type of leadership best fits its current business situation.

This text explains that autocratic leadership is used when decision agility and quick results are required. This is because the decision is only in the hands of a single person, and this regime, in the long run, can become authoritarian, discouraging collaborative people.

Democratic leadership

Democratic leadership is the reverse. There is the participation of all people, regardless of organizational hierarchy. Decisions must be unanimous or by the majority, even if the leadership has a contrary position. 

This type of leadership is suitable for organizations that are already established and have time to make decisions. What’s more, it works in teams whose people already have experience and know what they’re doing.

Liberal leadership


Liberal leadership or laissez-faire is where there is little interference from a leading person, and the team has to solve problems and make decisions independently. This leadership also requires scenarios in groups that demand creative solutions or where performance is not a priority.