One of the topics that social psychology or organizational psychology has been most interested in is leadership, and in these subdisciplines of behavioral science many researches have gone in that direction.

How does leadership affect our occupational health and performance? These are some of the questions that researchers have asked and tried to answer.

Psychology’s interest in understanding leadership styles

The type of leadership exercised by supervisors will always have consequences for workers (or subordinates if we are not talking about the work environment). Generally, we usually talk about negative or positive leadership styles depending on the consequences on subordinates . For example, the transformational leadership style is considered positive because it takes into account the needs of the workers and positively influences the reduction of stress.

However, it must be taken into account that the situation will determine whether a leadership style is good or bad, because depending on the type of tasks to be developed, the profile of employees, etc., there will be certain advantages and disadvantages in that particular context, in that particular organization, to apply one style or another successfully.

In this article we are going to review the most important characteristics of autocratic leadership and we are going to explain its advantages and disadvantages.

Autocratic leadership: what is it?

The autocratic leadership style is one of the most common in companies . It is characterised by a unidirectional leadership style, in which the superiors are the ones who make the decisions and set the guidelines without the participation of the group. The leader holds the power and the employees obey his orders.

Outside the workplace, autocratic leadership is the leadership used by dictators and is therefore not very well known. Authoritarian leadership has received a lot of criticism because of different factors:

  • Historically, autocratic leadership has been associated with tyrants and dictators.
  • Autocratic leadership has become a characteristic style for supervisors who lack skills, training and experience and, of course, have deficiencies at the communication level.
  • Today, employee expectations have changed and motivational leaders are more suited to environments with experienced staff.
  • Some people are uncomfortable working for autocratic leaders because they think there is authoritarianism, despite the fact that it is an appropriate management style for training inexperienced staff or implementing consistent quality control processes.

Despite the fact that in the last decades other leadership styles have become more popular (for example, democratic leadership), the truth is that the autocratic style also has its advantages .

Recommended article: “Psychological Keys to Improve Business Leadership”

Characteristics of the autocratic leader

Autocratic leaders have different defining characteristics. They are as follows:

  • Are clear in the expectations of what should be done and about what and how things should be done
  • Is strongly oriented towards command and control of employees
  • It’s one-way . Superiors make decisions and subordinates take orders without being able to show their opinion
  • The leader centralizes all authority
  • You may be interested in: “If you have great leadership skills, you probably excel in these types of intelligence”


Autocratic leadership is beneficial if it is employed in situations where there is little time to make group decisions or the leader is the most experienced member of the group. Therefore, when it is necessary to make quick and decisive decisions it is the best alternative. For example, in professions where there are emergency situations: paramedics, military, police, firemen, etc.

Likewise, autocratic leadership can be effective with employees who require close monitoring of their tasks, as this prevents them from relaxing, and improves the performance, productivity and speed with which they carry out their work


The criticism of this style of leadership is based on a series of disadvantages that are a consequence of the application of this type of leadership. The authoritarian leader does not take into account the opinion of the workers and employees , since for him they are simply individuals who must obey his orders. Many employees may feel despised and undervalued, even making the decision to leave the company.

Studies have shown that some workers perform less well with this type of leadership and that, as the scientific evidence shows, it has a greater negative impact on stress (or burnout) and the well-being of workers, unlike other types of leadership such as transformational leadership. It is not at all recommended for companies whose intellectual capital is creativity.

Other leadership styles

Today, many companies opt for other styles of leadership, such as transformational or democratic , because authoritarian leadership limits the development of their workers. Furthermore, the expectations of the workers have changed in the last lustrums, and the workers are increasingly demanding. As mentioned above, the success or failure of a leadership style will be determined by the situation, and while a leadership style may be good for one organization, it may not be good for another.

The most employed leadership styles in business today, in addition to authoritarian leadership, are

  • Democratic Leadership
  • Laissez-faire leadership
  • Transactional Leadership
  • Transformational Leadership
  • If you want to go deeper into these leadership styles, you can visit our article: “Types of Leadership: The 5 most common types of leaders”