Pros and Cons of Autocratic Leadership in the Modern Enterprises


Date: 13 February 2017

Location: Kuala Lumpur Airport

Incident: Assassination of Kim Jong-nam

Kim Jong-nam was assassinated on the orders of his half-brother King Jong-un of North Korea with a VX nerve agent. The murder was plotted in a way that it looked like a prank for a television program. The two women involved in the murder thought they were working for a TV program but little they knew they were part of a much bigger and cruel game. The motive behind the heinous act was absolute power and the authority of a single person.

Autocratic leadership is all about the authority of a single person in having the final say in every matter one can think of. Examples are CEOs, Directors/Owners of private organizations/businesses, and head of states/dictators and rulers of a country/region. Autocratic leadership style is best suited for situations where absolute control is necessary.

The cruel way Kim Jong-nam was forced to leave this world is one of the cases as to how sheer power and authority in a dictatorship can result in tragic and cruel incidents like these. Dictators like Kim Jong-un (having the position of Supreme Leader of North Korea) is the perfect example of autocracy and how they try to manipulate everything around them to remain in power and cement their status.

You may get an indication that autocracy is always terrible as no one is allowed to speak a word against any orders of the supreme leader. But in some scenarios, rigid rules can make a person rule a country or run a company with authority to pass through a tough/dangerous situation. In heavy industries and mines, laborers are often subject to autocratic leadership with managers/supervisors having absolute power.

Primary Characteristics of Autocratic Leadership

  • A single person is assigned absolute authority
  • Little or no input from employees/team/group members
  • Leader dictate all the work methods and processes
  • Highly structured and Rigid way of working
  • Rules/regulations/policies need to be strictly followed in the autocratic environment.

Benefits of Autocratic Leadership

  • Quick decision making
  • A clear chain of command
  • Strong directive Leadership for desired results

Negative Features of Autocratic Leadership

  • No input from anyone within and outside the group
  • Can lead to frustration and low morale among group members
  • Creativity and Out-of-the-box thinking are discouraged

Autocracy in the Real World

In spite of being deemed as a negative practice, there are scores of cases where it has done wonders for an organization or a country. China is a prime example where a form of autocracy is in place as no general elections or referendum is held to elect a government. Instead, it is a one-party socialist republic with all the powers concentrated within the Nationalist People’s Congress who elects the president here.

China’s transformation from a country known as opium country and sleep people quickly changed. Autocracy worked very well for the development of China in the last few decades, especially after World War II. China’s rise to one of the world’s superpowers in terms of economy and military might is amazing. So, autocracy can be good for a country, depending upon the exact scenario and socio-political factors in a country/region.

Autocracy in Organizations and Companies

The autocratic style in organizations and companies is not favored in most cases. With a hierarchy consisting of a CEO/MD, managers and supervisors with each one having authority over their subordinates are usually followed. But in some cases, and industries, autocratic leaders are preferred as such a leader can push the team or all his subordinates forward.

Autocracy can be the cure for an ailing company where employees are either inexperienced or don’t know how exactly how to go about their job. After being closely watched and monitored by the person having full autocratic authorities and experience, it can make them better members of the team through enhanced performance.

Autocracy in the Tech World

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are known for their visionary ideas and products. Some of the most iconic software and tech gadgets can be credited to these two like the Windows operating system, iPod and iPhone, to name a few. Steve Jobs, in particular, was seen as a stubborn person by many as it was challenging for anyone to convince him or prove a point to him.

In his biography written by Walter Isaacson, he described Jobs as a person who would drive a person crazy. Jobs was not an easy person to talk to as it was hard to comply by concerning what he thought of a product and how to develop it according to his vision. While Apple, NeXT and Pixar, where Jobs worked or was part of the management, were not part of Autocratic at all, but Jobs’ personality was such. And no one can argue about his sheer brilliance and vision he had about all of his products.

Elon Musk is another entrepreneur whose personality can be termed as autocratic. He loves to innovate products that are far from ordinary and engage in tasks which not many people try to venture into. But he also prefers to work alone and don’t ask for suggestions nor accept them easily. As a result, association with him is difficult as it is evident from his personal life as well which has been troubled since childhood.

Final Word

There are occasions where a centralized control like autocracy is best suited. The reason for this is it is needed to achieve the desired result or performance, which can be difficult or impossible to achieve otherwise. However, this leadership style is not well suited for many businesses especially when your goal as a leader is to foster teamwork and cooperation.

Productivity enhancement tools like TaskQue can assist a manager or leader in a company to get the most out of his employees or subordinates.

In a nutshell, building trust with all the employees, cordial relationships with colleagues and subordinates and the practice of autocracy are poles apart. If you think you can add something to this blog or have a question about anything mentioned here, you are more than welcome. Please use the comments section below in this concern.