authoritarian leadership

Authoritarian leadership, also known as autocratic leadership, is a management style in which an individual has total decision-making power and absolute control over his subordinates. An authoritarian leader makes decisions on policies, procedures and group objectives with little or no input from his or her team members or followers.

The following are the chief characteristics of authoritarian leadership:

  • Leaders make decisions with little or no participation or creative input from their followers or team members
  • Leaders independently preside over policies and processes
  • Group members are always directly supervised by the leader

Authoritarian leadership is beneficial in industries and organizations where decisions need to be made urgently and efficiently, and where it's critical that certain tasks are performed in a specific way and there is very little room for mistakes, such as in construction, manufacturing and the military. Using this type of leadership prevents the chances of projects getting sidelined by a lack of organization or solid deadlines, and allows team members to concentrate on particular tasks without having to participate in the complex decision-making process. Authoritarian leadership can also be advantageous in cases where the leader is the most knowledgeable person in an organization.

There are many shortcomings to authoritarian leadership, however. Excessive use of this leadership style may cause the leader to be viewed as domineering and iron-fisted, which can breed resentment or aggression among group members. Furthermore, followers may grow to resent that they are not able to contribute their expertise or opinions to decision making. These factors may lead to a higher churn rate. Additionally, authoritarian leaders are typically lacking in creative problem-solving skills, which can hurt a group's operations.

Authoritarian leadership is most valuable in situations where managers are training or regulating staff that lack skills and experience. Motivational styles of leadership, such as authentic leadership, are more useful in groups that consist of more experienced individuals.

Examples of leaders who have used authoritarian leadership include Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Bill Gates, Kim Jong-un, Larry Ellison, Lorne Michaels, Richard Nixon and Vladimir Putin.

This was last updated in December 2015

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