Autocratic Leadership at a Glance — Benefits & Drawbacks
When a team leader’s style can be summarized with “my way or the highway,” that leader can accurately be called an autocrat. Autocratic leadership, also known as authoritarian leadership, is a style of leadership characterized by direct, top-down communication and commands. Unsurprisingly, as a more extreme style of leadership, it isn’t suited to every situation. Therefore, it’s necessary to take a close look at its benefits and drawbacks and consider when autocratic leadership might be an appropriate approach to implement.
Most of us hear the term “autocratic” and immediately picture a person shouting at an employee for not following orders.
This mental image isn’t unjustified either. Autocratic leader Steve Jobs was famous for shooting down ideas, changing projects at the last moment, and firing people who didn’t meet his standards of work performance. Jobs was also one of the most successful tech CEOs in history. Autocratic leadership can work in certain situations, pushing teams beyond their limits and achieving extraordinary results.
Autocratic leadership is a type of leadership that is individual-centric.
Such leaders usually make decisions based on their own judgment and ideas. Unfortunately, they might not appreciate the advice of their team members. They prefer to set their objectives, plan of action, processes and methods independently. Autocratic leaders exercise absolute control over the team. People who rely on this leadership style are often viewed as ‘dictators’ or ‘bossy’.
When used effectively, this leadership style can bring many benefits to a workplace.
Strength, clarity, and discipline are just a few examples of what you can expect. In cases where a company is constantly changing or facing a crisis, autocratic leadership will be beneficial. Because of its streamlined organizational structure and ability to make quick decisions, it will be able to react to situations more quickly than other leadership styles.
Every leadership style comes with some benefits and weaknesses. In this article, I outline some essential autocratic leadership benefits and drawbacks.
The word of autocratic leadership the word make a negative impact when we hear. This is really unbelievable but autocratic leadership also has some benefits and advantages. Autocratic leaders typically make decisions on the basis of their thoughts and beliefs, and seldom consider guidance from followers. So here this article gives the pros and cons of autocratic leadership are listed below.
Allows Quick Decision Making
Because of centralized authority, leader is a sole decision maker in this type of leadership style. He/she may make any decision without consulting others. So, it allows prompt decision making at the time of emergency and crisis. Quick decision helps the organization to cope with the frequent changes in the business behavior.
In this leadership style, there is no need to gather consensus from your team or from other parts of the organization when making decisions. Your say goes.
Because of this, autocratic leadership lends itself particularly well to high-stress situations where quick decisions are vital. Useful when firm leadership is needed to restore balance to a company after a run of challenging months. By being more autocratic in your approach, you can exercise a better sense of character judgement in future hires, an ability to set and prioritize goals, and overall clarity in all the major decisions that your company takes.
Should any crises arise, autocratic leaders are also more likely to avert a situation from escalating.
Since this style dictates that there is no consultation, no flexibility, nor any room for debate, there is no need to consider the contributions of others when reaching a final verdict on your course of action. If your company is in serious trouble, then it may require you to take the reins and do what is necessary to keep it alive until you are on a more even footing. In companies where there are multiple levels of leadership, decisions, and feedback from senior management can take a long time to make it to employees. Since one person is in charge of autocratic leadership, arrangements can be made rapidly. This prevents workers from having to halt projects or push back deadlines, negatively impacting productivity.
Faster decision-making is the key to attaining organizational goals.
Depending on the circumstances, being able to make fast decisions and go into execution mode can be a strong advantage. Autocratic leaders are used to be in charge and they know what is expected of them in terms of decision-making. This type of confidence and pressure reduces the risk of the leader remaining indecisive or ignoring the need for a decision. Furthermore, there is no time to sit down and ask around to build support for your decision in a crisis situation. This is where an autocratic leader comes to his or her right.
The firm managed by an authoritarian leader is agile and better positioned to respond to any changes due to the tightly controlled style of operations.
This is due to the fact that decision-making is centralized, therefore the leader makes a swift choice and the company follows suit. They are not required to wait for feedback from the difficulties of multiple levels of leadership. This style is not required to wait for feedback from the senior manager or to consult the leadership team. There is just one person in charge. That means that a decision is made on the timetable of the leader and no one else. So the advantages that team members can continue the project, and remove obstacles that could negatively impact their overall productivity.
Reduces employee stress
Although an autocratic leader can have a challenging personality, most employees prefer to work in an environment where there are clear expectations set for them. Even workers who like to explore creative solutions don’t mind an autocratic leader when they are allowed to pitch new ideas or offer an alternative decision based on their personal experience. At the end of the day, the autocratic leader is like the captain of a ship: every decision is a weight on their shoulders and they are ultimately responsible for what happens.
Nevertheless, when the leader is the only person in the organization who makes decisions and determines the company’s strategy, they can easily feel overwhelmed.
This can lead to burnout. When an autocratic leader becomes burnt out and cannot fulfill their duties, the rest of the team is often ill-equipped to step in and take the lead because they have never been in that position before. For employees, an environment where decision-making is solely the manager’s job can mean a relatively low stress environment. The employee doesn’t have to worry about anything beyond performing their job duties properly, and for many employees, this is much less mentally taxing than an environment where they’re expected to pitch ideas and weigh in on business strategies.
That said, it’s a reality of the workplace that uncertainty can negatively affect productivity.
By allowing your employees to focus consistently on their given assignments, you alleviate stressors that can affect the quality of their work. Staff feel an increased self-confidence in their aptitude to complete tasks, as even the most minute details are given to them in extremis by their senior. It’s worth noting that this is only beneficial if you possess expert knowledge of the task at hand (including understanding the time constraints needed to complete a project). If you are dictating to subject matter experts who know more about their work than you do, then this management style is unlikely to be received well at all.
Autocratic leaders have imperious or commanding personalities.
Although they set their rules and regulations to control the team, they also play a significant role in eradicating employee stress. So, there are advantages of the autocratic leadership style for the employees, too. Autocratic leaders are like the captain of the ship. Every crisis or decision lies on their shoulders. And they are accountable for the outcomes. On the other hand, employees are responsible for following instructions and meeting deadlines. This system leaves the employees stress-free.
This leadership style works well in situations where there is a lot of pressure.
Members of a group may favor an authoritarian approach in stressful conditions, such as during military engagements. This frees up members of the group to concentrate on specific duties rather than making complex decisions. This also permits members of the organization to become highly proficient at executing specific tasks, which is eventually useful to the group’s success. The flip side is leaders don’t foster creativity or problem solving in organizations. They also hold people back from developing new skills and abilities. A team run by an autocratic leader will not have the same level of new ideas and innovation that other teams have.
Leads Inexperienced Workers Well
In workplaces where the employees are largely young and inexperienced, autocratic leadership can be the most effective approach. Inexperienced employees generally need a lot of hands-on guidance from their supervisors to learn their roles, learn how to perform their job duties effectively and learn how to work well within the organization. Working with a supervisor who makes all expectations clear and specifies exactly how to perform tasks can make the process of acclimating to a new work environment much easier for the employee.
This is one of the autocratic leader strengths and weaknesses that is highly dependent on the workplace environment.
While employees who need clear directive and feedback from their leader tend to do best under an autocrat, more experienced employees often do well in a more autonomous environment. Experienced, skilled workers tend to do better in an environment where their leader asks for their input in decision-making or even leaves decision-making entirely up to them. These types of leaders are known as democratic leaders and laissez-faire leaders, respectively.
In autocratic leadership, subordinates have to work as per the guidance and direction of the leader.
So, it is useful for newly appointed, incompetent and inexperience employees to improve their skills and performance. Indeed, when workers know what their role is and what exactly their deadlines are, they are more likely to finish any delegated work within a set timeframe. These same employees will also able to complete projects more accurately and consistently, as well as without frequent interruptions on your part – enabling you to focus on other things, too.
Inexperienced employees need a detailed layout and instructions to complete tasks.
Traits an autocratic leader is known for. Employees, in turn, learn discipline and consistency from their leader. Inexperienced employees can become productive very quickly under an autocratic leader. Orders from a more experienced individual can mean you start doing the right things immediately without hesitation. Less confusion, less uncertainty, less sitting around for inexperienced employees who are unsure of what to do. By following the direct instructions, they immediately go into “production”.
Autocrats can increase turnaround times and quality standards by giving clear instructions, oversight, and advice.
The experience of an autocratic leader can ensure that teams do not make the same mistakes as inexperienced ones. That said, be aware that because it is the autocratic leader’s reputation on the line, not the worker doing the job, those in this type of position tend to supervise every small detail of the work being done. Many autocratic leaders turn into severe micromanagers, making it difficult for workers to do their job because they’re always forced to report on what they are doing at any given moment. When this happens, productivity levels tend to decrease over time instead of increase.
Creates a Lack of Trust
What leads to a successful working relationship is an ability of workers to have trust in their leaders, and vice-versa. The foundation of the autocratic leadership style is one built on mistrust. Leaders must assume that their workers are not performing as they should, which requires their direct supervision to ensure results happen. These types of interactions do not create a sustainable working relationship, which ultimately creates productivity problems as workers experience lower morale levels.
Because of centralized authority, there is a possibility of micromanagement and dictatorship in the workplace.
A clear chain of command can be a good thing, but with autocratic leadership the people further down the chain may feel like their ability to think and act on their own accord is removed. If subordinates know that their input will most likely be dismissed – if acknowledged at all – they will invest less time (and energy) in contributing suggestions to how things could be done differently. This means that a valuable source of feedback from within the organization is shut off.
In a system of dependence, an autocratic leadership style creates a lack of trust between you and your workers.
Because of the strict method in which employees are micromanaged, there is no room for flexibility within the work environment. This lack of adaptability within your workforce can lead to your employees feeling devalued, particularly with regards to the seeking of their input. This, in turn, may cause your best people to look for work elsewhere – ideally with a company that places a higher value on their expertise, concerns, and loyalty to the business.
Regardless of if the relationship is personal or work-related, humans yearn to be in trusting partnerships.
At its core, autocratic leadership styles do not make trust a priority, and interactions do not sustain lasting relationships. This will drive down morale and could have a detrimental impact on engagement. According to goremotley.net, around 83% of employers feel that it is crucial to create leaders at all levels. But this might not be possible with an autocratic leadership style. Do you know why? Because this leadership creates a system of dependence. Professionals operating under this leadership can have lower confidence and slower decision-making skills.
The leader doesn’t trust in team members and that is detrimental for engagement, team identity, accountability, and many other things.
Lack of trust can turn into people suspecting each other for wrongdoings, and in the long term, it can even turn into paranoia. Moreover, the lack of empowerment among the team members means that even low-level decisions need to await input from the leader, jeopardizing productivity in the process. Furthermore, low empowerment leads to low employee engagement and low accountability. If you are always doing what you are told, you will not feel accountable for the outcome. Low accountability for decisions means no ownership.
Impacts Negatively The Morale
Autocratic leaders are in charge and they make this fact known. They get to take all the credit for the work that gets done. That means workers tend to not take ownership of the work they do because there is no incentive to do so. They won’t get blamed if it fails and they won’t get credit if it succeeds. Over time, this makes employee morale begin to sink. It also creates hardships for the leader because they may get blamed for the actions of a worker when that worker was told to do something completely different.
The lack of flexibility in environments headed by autocratic leaders can drive creative and motivated employees away.
This can mean the only employees who remain working with the company are unmotivated and even lazy individuals. Many employees want to feel a sense of belonging and unity within their workplace, and an authoritarian approach diverts from the things that help to build this culture, such as the mentoring of employees, positive modelling of expected behaviors, guidance and support, and the formation of genuine relationships between people. This is why very few of the world’s top CEOs implement such a style, as in most modern environments and industries – such as in tech – autocratic leadership is not well received.
The crux of autocratic leadership is the balance between control and morale.
In this system, a leader can make quick and strong decisions, establish a clear chain of command, and see productivity increase as a result. To fully reap its benefits, the leader must also understand the potential negative impacts on morale. Subordinates will only put up with being told what to do if they feel very strongly aligned with the organization, the leader, and the vision. Otherwise they will feel coerced, harangued, and, ultimately, beaten down. If such negative feelings persist for too long, expect anything from simmering resentment to full-blown dissent.
In some circumstances, autocratic leadership can harm the morale of the group.
When people believe they are contributing to the group’s future, they are generally happier and perform better. Because autocratic leaders rarely allow team members’ participation, followers become dissatisfied and suffocated. If people’s opinions are ignored they will begin to lose interest, a culture of disconnect will start, and complacency will set in. Autocratic leaders can often build up resentment, fears of failure, and apathy among their people if they are too authoritarian.
Last but not least, autocratic leaders can create a toxic culture.
Research has shown that when senior executives engage in autocratic leadership, then middle management will mimic these behaviors. This modeling can result in autocratic leadership being accepted throughout the organization at lower and upper levels. This increase in hierarchy can lead to an ineffective culture, undermine innovation and it also makes it difficult for organizations to change from an autocratic culture to a more democratic environment.
The advantages and disadvantages of the autocratic leadership style show that it can be effective when an organization requires quick, accurate decisions from an experienced leader. It is an easy way to cut through administrative red tape to ensure better communication to all workers. Over time, however, this leadership style creates mistrust within the workplace. Workers become dependent on someone else to make decisions. That reduces the productivity available, and eventually leads to declining morale.
The benefits of autocratic leadership can easily outweigh the drawbacks, if implemented by a skilled and competent leader.
Though there are potential pitfalls, these often manifest when a leader tries to drive their subordinates too hard. Maintaining awareness of the balance required, as well as the ability (and hopefully, the desire) to prioritize subordinate wellbeing, lays the groundwork for effective autocratic leadership. In reality, autocratic leadership is unlikely to be employed indiscriminately and unwaveringly. Effective leaders often use aspects of this style occasionally and sparingly, when the situation demands.
Authoritative leaders are most consistent in their approaches and systems.
The procedures and rules might seem rigid. But, the results always lead to corporate success. However, excess control can also result in low employee morale and employee engagement. Therefore, leaders who exercise autocratic leadership should follow a balanced process to attain organizational objectives. Although their primary aim should be to achieve business goals, as leaders, it is also their responsibility to add value to employees. The correct leadership approach used at the right time will foster a long-term employee–leader relationship. After all, this is what good leadership is all about.
It is possible to reap the benefits without being labelled a tyrant!
Ultimately, when pondering if the benefits of an authoritarian leadership style outweigh the drawbacks, keep in mind that the structure is not necessarily favorable for every leader. Don’t be afraid to combine traditional methods, either; it’s possible to be autocratic in some aspects of your leadership and democratic in others. What do you think? Is there a place for autocratic leadership in a modern, increasingly millennial workplace? Let us know your experiences and opinions in the comment section below.
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.