The Main Differences Between Authoritative Leaders and Authoritarians

June 30, 2022

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Overview: Authoritarian leaders like to make all the decisions and control every aspect of the activities of their organization. They refuse feedback and advice from others and rarely consider alternative perspectives. Authoritative leadership, on the other hand, treats people as the ultimate resource of creative ideas and solutions.  

Authoritarian leaders exert control over what, how, and when things get done. They’re not keen on feedback and focus their energy on making things happen. 

Authoritative leaders empower and inspire employees, convincing reports to join them on journeys toward worthy goals. Authoritative leadership seeks feedback and thrives on it. It builds sustainable success that acts as the foundation of future success. 

Although they observe and operate through different values, both leadership styles have a place in the arsenal of an intelligent leader. 

Authoritarian Leadership and Autocracy

Authoritarian leaders rely almost exclusively on their own ideas, never accepting feedback or advice from other parties. They know what they want, how they want it done, and when. They compel others to do their bidding through threats or force. 

Autocratic leaders stop at nothing to impose their will on others. They demand others obey completely. They never care about or consider other opinions, not even those originating from their inner circle. 

Authoritarian leadership may have a place in the arsenal of an intelligent leader. However, it can degenerate into autocracy and failure. 

Why Authoritarian Leadership Can Work

Executive coaching understands the implications of authoritarian leadership. That is why it accepts it to some degree. 

Authoritarian leadership entails unilateral decision-making. When leaders don’t seek input from others, assume complete control, or focus exclusively on achieving well-defined objectives, they become quick and effective. 

That’s why authoritarian leadership suits situations of extreme crisis or distress. Quick decision-making takes precedence over quality decision-making during such times. 

Other advantages of temporary authoritarian leadership include: 

  • Employees gain motivation from knowing exactly what they have to do, how, and when. 
  • When leaders must implement change immediately, using an authoritarian approach allows them to be effective. 
  • The strict parameters of authoritarian leadership lend themselves well to teaching employees new skills. 
  • Some situations leave no room for error. Authoritarian leaders handle these situations better, as they tolerate no distractions and provide concise guidance. 

Leadership coaching experts know, however, that authoritarian leadership is never a long-term solution. 

The Ins and Outs of Authoritative Leadership

Authoritative leaders view their followers as resources they aren’t afraid to tap. Authoritative leaders don’t shy away from showing vulnerability by admitting they don’t have all the answers. 

Unlike authoritarian leadership, authoritative leadership is sustainable and a better choice for long-term success. 

Authoritative leaders can inspire and motivate employees in many ways, empowering them and allowing them to achieve mastery in their work. 

Authoritative leadership empowers employees. 

The authoritative approach is what executive coaching preaches as the best solution for lending purpose and direction to aimless organizations. 

While better suited for most business situations than authoritarian leadership, authoritative leadership may fall short in situations that require instant, decisive responses. 

The Dangers of Authoritarian Leadership

Authoritarian leadership carries the seeds of its own demise above and beyond the danger of degenerating into an autocratic approach. 

  • Authoritarian leaders never have time for anything as all decisions go through them. 
  • Such leaders will find it impossible to motivate employees long-term. 
  • The productivity of employees under authoritarian leadership is worse than it could be
  • Even when leaders praise employees, they seem insincere. The praise may sound manipulative.  
  • Employees don’t take pride in their work and lose interest in it. 
  • No one seems to step forward with fresh ideas or alternative perspectives. 

Authoritarian leadership sacrifices three cornerstones of effective leadership on the altar of quick results and effective short-term decision-making. Leaders who practice this style eliminate communication, trust-building, and information-sharing. 

Authoritarian leadership is a leader-centric approach to leadership. By contrast, authoritative leadership is people centric. 

Through executive coaching, leaders know when to turn to authoritarian leadership over authoritative leadership and when choosing one over the other makes sense. 

Contact us to learn more about how you can join the IL Movement as a coach or how you can benefit from partnering with us to bring IL Solutions to you and your organization.

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