What is Authoritarian Leadership | Definitions | Examples | Characteristics | Pros & Cons of Authoritarian Leadership

Meaning of Authoritarian Leadership

Authoritarian leadership is a type of leadership style where the leader makes decisions without consulting the subordinates/followers or considering their opinions. 

The leader exercises complete control and authority over the team or organization, giving orders and expecting strict obedience. 

This leadership style is characterized by a top-down approach, with little or no input from the followers or to those who are below that leader. 

The leader sets the goals and objectives, assigns tasks, and closely monitors the performance of their subordinates. 

This type of leadership can work well when fast choices need to be made or there’s a big demand for strict control and order. But, it may also cause bad feelings among workers, a shortage of new ideas and not much involvement from employees.

Authoritarian leadership is when someone is in charge and makes all the decisions without asking for other people’s opinions. 

It’s like when a teacher tells the students what to do and doesn’t let them say anything regarding that work. The leader is in control and expects everyone to follow their orders without question.

Definitions of Authoritarian Leadership

John P. Kotter  said that in Authoritarian Leadership “one person directs the work of others without significant input from those below”. 

James G. Hunt describes authoritarian leadership as characterized by “high directive control and low participative involvement”.

Abraham Zaleznik describes authoritarian leaders as having “a sense of omnipotence, a need for immediate obedience, and a fear of dependence on others”. 

Edgar H. Schein defines authoritarian leadership as a style where “culture is imposed by powerful leaders and enforced through rules and sanctions”

Fast Fact

Authoritarian leaders can make decisions 67% faster than democratic leaders in complex situations. While this quick decision-making can be an advantage in emergencies, it comes at the cost of stifling creativity and innovation.

Example of Authoritarian Leadership

Authoritarian leadership is a leadership style where the leader makes decisions without input from others and expects strict obedience from their subordinates. Some examples of authoritarian leadership include:

  1. Military leaders: In the military, commanders often use an authoritarian leadership style to maintain discipline and ensure orders are followed without question.
  1. Dictators: Dictators exercise complete control over their countries and make all decisions without consulting others. They expect unquestioning obedience from their citizens.
  1. Autocratic managers: Some managers in organizations may adopt an authoritarian leadership style, where they make all decisions and closely supervise their employees.
  1. Coaches: In some sports teams, coaches may use an authoritarian leadership style to maintain control and enforce discipline among the players.

It’s key to remember that while bosses with control can be good in some cases, they might also lead to less creativity and feeling down for the underlings.

Characteristics of Authoritarian Leadership

Authoritarian leadership is characterized by leaders who make decisions without consulting their subordinates or considering their opinions. 

They exercise complete control and authority over their team or organization. Some key characteristics of authoritarian leadership include:

  1. Centralized decision-making: Authoritarian leaders make decisions on their own without seeking input or feedback from their team members.
  1. Lack of autonomy: Subordinates have little to no autonomy or freedom to make decisions or take initiative. They are expected to follow orders with the leader’s directives.
  1. Strict hierarchy: Authoritarian leaders maintain a strict hierarchical structure, with clear lines of authority and a top-down communication approach. They expect subordinates to follow their instructions without question.
  1. Fear-based motivation: Authoritarian leaders often use fear, punishment, or coercion to motivate their subordinates. They may rely on threats or disciplinary actions to ensure compliance.
  1. Limited communication: Communication in authoritarian leadership is typically one-way, with leaders giving instructions and subordinates expected to listen and follow. There is little room for open dialogue or discussion.
  1. Lack of trust: Authoritarian leaders may have a lack of trust in their subordinates’ abilities or judgment, leading to micromanagement and a lack of delegation.
  1. Focus on results: Authoritarian leaders prioritize achieving goals and outcomes over building relationships or considering the well-being of their team members.

Advantages and Disadvantage of Authoritarian Leadership 

Quick decision-makingLack of creativity and innovation
Clear directionLow morale and motivation
Maintaining order and disciplineLack of collaboration and teamwork
Effective in crisis situationsHigh turnover and resistance

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