What Is Authoritative Leadership?

What Is Authoritative Leadership?

Effective leadership is the hallmark of success in every organization.

There are many different leadership styles. Some examples include democratic, transformational or authoritarian.

These styles all have their advantages and disadvantages. However, authoritarian, or autocratic, leaders are often perceived in a negative light.

It is useful to know that authoritarian leadership is common in business settings and can certainly have its benefits.

This article defines authoritarian leadership, discusses the pros and cons and provides tips on how to incorporate it into your leadership style.

What Is an Authoritarian Leader?

There are various theories about, and categorizations of, leaders. These are often connected to political and business figures.

Considering different leaders, there are some common styles and leadership principles that are instantly recognizable.

For example, a democratic leader is one who encourages participation in decision-making processes. It is an open style of leadership where the opinions and feelings of others are sought.

Delegative leadership, also called laissez-faire, is a hands-off approach where tasks are delegated to employees. This can be quite an unstructured approach.

An authoritarian leader is also referred to as an autocratic leader. They are viewed as the person at the top of the organizational structure.

They are responsible for all decision-making and are in control of all operations and procedures.

They maintain complete control of the entire organization. They exert their control by creating strict rules and guidelines.

The leader and workforce are clearly separated. The leader gives orders and the workforce follows them.

This 'do as I say' approach can inspire negative connotations of dictatorship and tyranny.

However, authoritarian leadership is a common leadership style. It can be used to great effect in certain situations.

These leaders make all company decisions. They do not require feedback, input or consultations with other members of the organization.

Their goal is to create and sustain an efficient working structure that produces the best results in the most efficient way.

The working environment is tightly structured and highly regimented. All working procedures are designed and communicated by the leader.

Under this style of leadership, creativity and innovation from team members are discouraged. Instead, rules are clearly defined with the expectation that these are followed.

The threat of punishment is often used to motivate workers. However, rewards can also be used to increase motivation if a softer authoritarian approach is taken.

The main focus of an authoritative leader is that of efficiency. It is believed that through efficient working practices, success can be achieved.

Employee satisfaction, motivation and development are not as highly valued as the overall success of the company.

However, it clearly has a role to play in developing efficient working practices and increasing productivity. In this way, there can be a positive aspect to this leadership style.

In times of crisis, or where a quick decisive judgement is needed, this style is clearly beneficial.

This leadership style can also be used alongside other styles. Choosing the most appropriate style depends on the particular situation, the project or the team being managed.

Examples of Authoritarian Leadership

An authoritarian leader exhibits certain traits. They are more likely to implement the following:

Strict Rules

An authoritarian leader needs to establish strict rules for their subordinates to follow.

Implementing a strict structure can improve productivity. Each team member understands their role and how to carry out their duties to maximum effect.

This is useful in high-risk areas, such as the military. In these situations, rule-following is necessary for the safety and security of all.

Disciplinary Regime

A strict disciplinary regime is one of the key tools of the authoritarian leader. This is considered to be more beneficial than increasing employee autonomy.

A clear knowledge of what the consequences are will discourage employees from engaging in any negative behavior.

Adhering to expectations for behavior means that working procedures are followed correctly. In this regard, discipline will reduce the number of mistakes made.

Snap Decisions

Authoritarian leaders are responsible for all decision-making. This means they are decisive with their judgments of a situation.

This type of leader is at the head of the organization. They are considered to be an expert in their field and able to make quick decisions without seeking consultation.

Lead by Example

To command the respect of their employees, an authoritative leader must lead by example.

A leader who is seen to disregard the principles they portray will be viewed with distrust. Employees will lose faith in their leader and could become complacent or even resentful.

Authoritative leaders need to follow their passion and communicate this clearly to their team. This will inspire them to work towards a shared goal and achieve success.

What Is Authoritative Leadership? Everything You Need to Know
What Is Authoritative Leadership? Everything You Need to Know

Pros and Cons of Authoritarian Leadership

Pros of Authoritarian Leadership

Here are some benefits and positive aspects of this leadership style.

They Are Inspiring

A leader with a vision can inspire subordinates.

They can act as a role model for the organization and encourage others to work towards a goal.

A confident leader who delivers exactly what they promise will promote faith and belief in their employees.

This is important as the workforce will need a driving force to achieve their targets.

Clear and Defined Expectations

With this style, expectations are clear and defined.

Authoritative leaders give clear directions. When staff are aware of their role and what is expected of them, they can fulfil it by meeting their competencies.

All procedures and protocols are structured and defined. This includes expectations of work, deadlines and behaviour.

In this environment, staff are fully informed of their role and can carry it out efficiently. Thus maximizing work productivity.

Quick Decision Makers

These leaders are equipped with all the knowledge and skills they need to make quick decisions.

Their confidence enables them to make snap judgments whilst under extreme pressure.

This means that a way forward is presented quickly to employees and no time is wasted in reaching a decision of how to proceed.

These leaders can cope in high-pressure situations and shoulder responsibility for all consequences.

Provides Focus

When a team is lacking direction, this approach will create positive results.

Without a leader, projects can stagnate and targets may not be achieved. An authoritarian leadership style ensures that one individual can take charge.

This means that tasks can be organized and delegated to appropriate team members to ultimately achieve success.

Cons of Authoritarian Leadership

These are some disadvantages of authoritarian leadership:

Staff Dissatisfaction

With this type of leadership, staff are not viewed as collaborators.

The lack of staff input in the decision-making process can lead to apathy and a reduction in performance.

When a leader is perceived as domineering or bossy, it can create a lack of trust.

This can create a negative workplace culture and an increase in staff turnover.

No Creativity

As this style is highly structured, there is a lack of creativity.

Creative thinking and innovation are not sought-after qualities in an employee. The ability to follow rules and carry out duties efficiently are rewarded more often.

For those that place a high value on personal development and progression, this can lead to a lack of commitment to the job and a lack of morale.

High Responsibility

An authoritarian leader commands a position of high responsibility.

They are the ones making all the decisions about the organization. This can cause upset if employees do not agree with them.

When a wrong decision is made, it requires a high degree of resilience for a leader to accept the consequences and take charge.

This will involve mitigating the impact of the decision on the employees and regaining their trust.

How to Become an Authoritarian Leader

Authoritarian leadership is best used in combination, or balanced, with other styles of leadership. However, adopting some principles of this style can be useful.

Here are some tips on how to become an authoritarian leader.

Set Clear Objectives

Have a developed sense of all goals and objectives. These need to be clear and concise so they can be cascaded to employees.

Having clear objectives will empower staff. When they realize their impact on the team as a whole they will clearly see their part in achieving the aim.

Develop Your Communication Skills

Excellent communication skills are essential to an authoritarian leader.

Delivering key messages, directives and information is a key aspect of this style of leadership.

By communicating respectfully, a leader will create trust and belief in their abilities and vision.


An authoritarian leader needs to be fully aware of each aspect of the organization. Each policy, procedure and process needs to be understood.

Although micromanaging is intensive, a clear understanding of all aspects will enable a leader to make improvements and improve efficiency overall.

This knowledge can allow leaders to make continuous improvements and adjustments when necessary.

Become a Role Model

A good role model needs to be confident, self-aware, dedicated and optimistic.

By developing these qualities, a leader will inspire their workforce to achieve greater success.

Good role models have trust in their own abilities. This is gained by increasing expert knowledge of the industry they work in.

Focus On Learning

Continuously developing knowledge and skills is important for an authoritative leader.

Keeping a finger on the pulse of the latest industry developments will drive the organization forward.

Opportunities to learn about new innovations or techniques should be taken. This can be implemented in the organization and keep it ahead of competitors.

How to Use Authoritarian Leadership

Even though authoritarian leadership can be perceived as negative, there are times when its use is beneficial.

Here are some tips on how to use it most effectively in organizations.

For Emergencies Only

The authoritative style was designed for use in emergencies. During a crisis, decisive leadership is necessary.

The ability to make quick judgments is needed in crisis situations. In times like these, a clear directive can save lives.

This is why it is often used in healthcare or military settings. If input on action was sought, time could be lost and the consequences could be severe.

Communicate Clearly

If the authoritarian style is adopted, it is important to communicate this clearly with employees. This way, they will understand the necessity for it and the reasons why.

For example, if a new directive was being implemented, it should be explained why it is necessary to proceed without consultation or input.

Use in Combination With Other Styles

The authoritarian style of leadership is best used in combination with other styles.

One reason is that staff will benefit from a more relaxed or collaborative approach. Morale can increase along with job satisfaction.

Having a domineering leader is not suited to all workers. So using different styles depending on the situation is a better option.

Include Rewards

Although staff can be motivated to achieve through the threat of punishment alone, it is not always a desirable working atmosphere.

Consider the use of a reward system alongside the threat of punishment. Recognizing the contribution of staff increases job satisfaction.

Employees are often motivated by the promise of bonus pay. They will want to increase their efficiency to claim their reward.

Encourage Contribution

The authoritarian style traditionally does not allow for contribution.

However, setting up a system where staff can contribute to the process can make them feel valued and an integral part of a team.

It is important to allow the expression of opinions or ideas. This can be useful in understanding other ways to improve organizational efficiency and productivity.

Improve Organizational Function

Due to external events, an organizational overhaul may be necessary. For example, if a competitor is rapidly increasing its share of the market.

This can have a negative impact on profit. Taking an authoritative approach could be an advantage in quickly turning things around by increasing efficiency and generating productivity.

Review the Leadership Style Regularly

Consider the impact of using the authoritarian approach.

For example, staff feedback could be sought to determine how the workforce has been affected by the leadership style.

This tip ensures that a leader is reviewing their own behavior and making necessary adjustments as a result.

Final Thoughts

Authoritarian leadership is not generally recommended to be an all-purpose solution. However, it is a common approach used in business.

There are aspects of this approach that can be used to benefit an organization – for example, having clearly defined rules and processes.

Yet, other aspects may lead to a decrease in employee motivation – for example, the lack of consultation and rewards.

Having an awareness of the impact this style can have on employees is very important.

This leadership style should be used carefully and consciously to avoid the disadvantages it can create. Therefore, being over reliant on the autocratic style is not recommended.

However, having an understanding of its uses can be beneficial and will provide direction and focus in work settings.

Read This Next

You might also be interested in these other WikiJob articles:

Or explore the Jobs & Careers / Leadership sections.