An autocratic leadership style is similar to an authoritarian leadership style. Autocratic leaders rely on specific rules, policies, and procedures to govern all processes within the workplace. To be effective, the leader must be able to have proven competencies in their field, as they are responsible for making most of the decisions in the workplace.
Instead of there being a democratic process for teams, there are no group positions of leadership with the autocratic style. Everything rests with the leader. That means all creative decisions originate from the leader.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to consider with the autocratic leadership style.
List of the Advantages of Autocratic Leadership
1. It allows for fast decisions to be made.
When there is an autocratic leadership established within an organization, there are fewer levels of administration that must be kept informed of each decision. There is also less feedback from various levels of management which must be processed. That is because there is one person and they are in charge of all arrangements. This improves the speed of decisions because only one person is weighing the pros and cons of each choice, not a C-Suite.
2. It improves overall communication.
When there are multiple levels of leadership within an organization, a command from the top becomes like a childhood game of Telephone. Each level of management can inadvertently (or purposely) put their own spin on the communication come from the leadership. By the time the information reaches the front-line employees doing most of the work, the entire original message could be lost. Autocratic leadership eliminates this issue because the command goes straight to the workers involved.
3. It improves productivity.
Because autocratic leaders are able to move information throughout an organization quickly, there are fewer delays in productivity. Workers are less likely to stop their projects or ask for later deadlines because they receive timely decisions and communication from their leadership. That creates a positive impact on the work environment, which leads to more accurate work and consistent production.
4. It handles crisis situations effectively.
Autocratic leaders are able to handle a crisis situation easily because they are the ones who are in charge. If there is a short-term problem, the expertise of the leader can be used to create a solution. For long-term issues, the autocratic leader can direct traffic in specific ways with more efficiency than a C-Suite, creating solutions that can quickly move an organization out of a troublesome state.
5. It 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.
6. It counters team inexperience.
If an autocratic leader is put in charge of an inexperienced team, they’ll be able to get the job done by outlining specific instructions to follow. Workers can benefit from the competencies offered by their leader, replicating productivity by using the leader’s knowledge and experience as a workplace asset. When there isn’t enough time to learn something new or a project must be completed rapidly, this type of leadership is the best option.
List of the Disadvantages of Autocratic Leadership
1. It often leads to micromanagement.
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.
2. It does not offer a sense of professional ownership.
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.
3. It creates a work culture based on the leader.
When an autocratic leader is consistent with their ethics and is determined to create a fair working environment, then there can be a lot of positives for workers in a company. If the leader offers questionable ethics, however, and refuses to create fairness, then there is no one who can really hold that person accountable. The work culture is based solely on the ethics and morality of the leader, which means a poor working environment is not likely to change.
4. It creates a system of dependence.
Workers are forced to rely on the autocratic leader for all their feedback, instructions, and work duties. If they face a decision in the work they are doing, they are almost forced to go to the leader for advice on what to do instead of making the decision on their own. That makes it almost impossible for leaders to leave the workplace, as workers can become so dependent on their decision-making abilities that nothing gets done if the leader is not present for some reason.
5. It 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.
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.