What is Autocratic Leadership? Examples Throughout History


As you may already know, several types of leadership styles are available to help individuals successfully lead others. And in many ways, these leadership styles can be viewed as being on a spectrum, with autocratic leadership on one end and laissez-faire on the other. However, today, we are going to dive deep into autocratic leadership. Therefore, keep reading if you want to learn more about this style.

The Professional Leadership Institute provides training on leadership fundamentals and offers a free preview.

Key Takeaways

  • Autocratic leadership is an authoritarian leadership style. It requires one individual to make all the decisions for others without any input or advice.
  • Famous autocratic leaders include Napoleon Bonaparte, King Henry III, and Queen Elizabeth I.
  • This type of leadership style is helpful during stressful and last-minute circumstances. However, it can prevent creativity and innovation from occurring.
  • Autocratic leaders need to listen to their employees and be open to their ideas to cultivate success.
  • To succeed as an autocratic leader, you must keep an open mind and foster a positive company culture so team members can feel excited about working with you.


What is Autocratic Leadership?

Autocratic leadership is also commonly known as a form of authoritarian leading style. This means that one individual is in charge of making decisions for their team. Additionally, these types of leaders rarely take ideas from other people and usually make choices based on their own perspectives. Further, autocratic leaders prefer structure and ensure team members understand their roles and complete their work on time. However, as a result, this can discourage creativity and collaboration amongst groups.

In addition, it can also leave others feeling as though they are unable to make decisions for themselves, which can be discouraging. On the other hand, this leadership style allows for quick decision-making during stressful circumstances. It also aids with ensuring individuals understand their role and required tasks.

Other pros and cons of this leadership style include:

Pros of Autocratic Leadership

  • It improves the productivity of workers as leaders can delegate tasks and re-assign responsibilities.
  • It helps prevent miscommunication between team members.
  • Less stress for employees as they clearly know what their responsibilities are.

Cons of Autocratic Leadership

  • This type of leadership style can lead to micromanagement
  • It does not allow employees to be independent in their work
  • Can make team members feel like they are not being heard
  • It can be challenging to create trust amongst team members and the individual in charge

What are Examples of Famous Autocratic Leaders in History?

Furthermore, now that we know what autocratic leadership is let’s look at some examples of authoritarian-based leaders throughout history.

  • Attila the Hun
  • Father Junipero Serra
  • Genghis Khan
  • King Henry III
  • Napoleon Bonaparte
  • Queen Elizabeth I
  • Martha Stewart
  • Howell Raines
  • Leona Helmsley
  • Bill Gates
  • Engelbert Dollfuss

As you can see, many of these individuals were heads of mass armies throughout history. However, others are heads of companies, journalists, and celebrity chefs in modern times.

When is it Best to Use Autocratic Leadership?

Moreover, while autocratic leadership does not work well in certain situations, it can be beneficial to others. Let’s take a closer look at when it is best to use this type of leadership style.

  1. Autocratic leadership is helpful when quick decisions need to be made. Additionally, it can be beneficial in scenarios when tasks need to be completed on an urgent basis.
  2. In many work environments, some employees can become lazy with their work when the leadership is overly lenient. However, with an autocratic leader, employees understand their work is being closely monitored. Therefore, they will be less likely to become lazy in their work and know what is expected of them at all times.
  3. In work scenarios that require strict coordination, autocratic leadership is valuable. This is because it allows team members to understand their roles. As a result, they will not need to worry about responsibilities outside of the tasks they are working on.
  4. When employees are underperforming in their tasks, it can lead to other problems throughout the company. Therefore, an autocratic leader can step in and ensure that employees begin performing up to standard when this occurs.
  5. This type of leadership style is effective in careers such as construction, the military, and manufacturing companies.

When is it Not Best to Use Autocratic Leadership?

Moreover, although autocratic leadership can be helpful in specific situations and employment environments, there are times when this style is unsuccessful. Let’s take a closer look at when you should avoid this leadership style.

  1. You should avoid leading authoritatively in employment environments with creativity and collaboration.
  2. Try avoiding autocratic leadership when working with employees in different departments, as it can lead to resentment.
  3. Another scenario where this leadership style would not work well is when conflict arises between employees. This is because it can make employees feel unheard and unappreciated.

How to Make this Leadership Style Work for You

Furthermore, now that you understand when and when not to use this type of leadership style in employment settings let’s look at how you can become a better leader using this style.

  • Establish clear rules and expectations from your team members to avoid miscommunication.
  • Remember to listen to your employees and be open to their suggestions
  • Inform and educate your employees when things go wrong, rather than enforce new rules.
  • Keep an open mind and motivate your team at all times. This will help you set positive examples amongst your team and help you foster a positive company culture that encourages feedback.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, autocratic leadership is a style that does not work for everyone. However, while this style has a few disadvantages, it can also be highly beneficial when used correctly. Therefore, if you want to succeed as a leader, you need to be willing to adopt the best practices from all leadership styles to favorably benefit your entire team and the company you work for.

Related posts

Differences between Millennials and Gen Z in the Workplace

Differences between Millennials and Gen Z in the Workplace Key Takeaways   Millennials and Gen Z prefer to be in…

When Billy has a problem with Susie AND with Bobby AND with Janie...

This week I was approached by a guy who I hadn’t seen in years.   He immediately cornered me and told…

Are You A Good Person?

Today I want to share some basic wisdom.  Wisdom about living life at work and at home. Our default is…

Ready to get started?

Learn how to get people right with our practical curriculum taught by instructors with real-world experience.

PLI-Cert_Leadership Fundamentals_
Scroll to Top