Authoritarian leadership is a specific style and model of leadership characterized primarily by a leader who takes personal and full control over all decisions and courses of actions. Some aspects of authoritarianism, especially its advantages and disadvantages, are also present in the transactional model of leadership.
The Pros: Strengths and Advantages of Authoritarian Leadership
1. Puts the Pressure on the Leader and Reduces Stress of Followers
One of the strengths or advantages of authoritarian leadership is that it places all the pressure from complex decision-making and managing on the leader. In specific situations that involve tasking followers with different specialized tasks, this style of leadership allows the leader to focus on leading while enabling others to focus on their specialized roles and responsibilities.
Because it puts all the pressure on the leader, authoritarian leadership reduces the stress of followers by giving them a clear set of expectations. Remember that these followers do not need to focus on making complex decisions and directing the rest toward the identified group or organizational goals and objectives.
2. Suited for New Groups or Teams that Lack Experience
The formation of a group or a team can be challenging. A new organization can be chaotic because of the absence of tried and tested rules. Onboarding inexperienced but qualified individuals to a team can be difficult. Hence, another advantage of authoritarian leadership is that it suited for leadership situations in which a team or organization lacks substantial experience.
An authoritarian leader has the responsibility of guiding inexperienced followers using his or her expertise or competency. Hence, his or her style of leadership is appropriate for leadership situations characterized by the absence of an established order, workplace culture, and standards or procedures.
3. Promotes Fast Decision-Making and Simplifies Communication
Another notable strength of authoritarian leadership is that it enables fast decision-making. Under this style, the leader is the only one responsible for making complex or critical decisions. There is no need to collaborate with his or her followers to gather and evaluate insights and inputs. Note that this can be useful in emergencies.
The reduced decision-making time also stems from the simplified communication process. Within an authoritarian framework is a communication structure characterized by a single reporting line with minimal to zero feedback mechanism. The authoritarian leader simply directs without any room for oppositions. This also reduces the number of mistakes to occur.
4. Boosts Productivity and Improves the Efficiency of the Entire Group
Remember authoritarian leadership is about getting things done as fast as possible. The authoritarian leader sets directives and moves information in a straightforward manner, thus allowing no delays due to evaluations and objections to the chosen courses of action.
Because followers are not involved in decision-making or problem-solving, they can direct their energy toward their assigned tasks. A strong and consistent focus on specializations within a group or organization leads to accuracy in performance and consistency in production, thus promoting not only effectiveness but also efficiency within a team or organization.
5. Applicability in Leading Established and Mechanized Tasks
Apart from its applicability in leading inexperienced teams or new organizations, another application of authoritarian leadership is in leading other teams or organizations characterized by the performance of established procedures or mechanized tasks with sets of instructions coursed through simplified communication and single reporting line.
Some examples of situations with established procedures or mechanized tasks include routine occupations that require high-quality control such as in factories, deadline-based and result-oriented undertakings such as projects and a strong requirement for disciplined followers such as in team sports and the military.
The Cons: Weaknesses and Disadvantages of Authoritarian Leadership
1. Not Suitable For Situations That Require Strong Collaborations
A critical weakness or disadvantage of authoritarian leadership is that it is not suitable for leadership situations that require the evaluation of insights and inputs through collaboration. Some examples of these situations include tasks that require the identification of solutions to problems or the generation of ideas for creative purposes.
The absence of collaboration within authoritarianism can lead to more specific drawbacks. Note that not all leaders are capable of making the best decision. There are times when the most appropriate choice comes from other members of a group or the synthesis of different ideas. Authoritarian leaders can suffer from an inability to make informed decisions.
2. Too Much Dependence on the Leader and Creates Leadership Risks
The creation and promotion of a culture of dependence also translate to the disadvantages of authoritarian leadership. In case a follower encounters a circumstance that requires prompt decision-making, he or she needs to go to the leader for advice. What this suggests is that the leader must be available at all times.
Nothing will get done if the leader is not present for some reason. Furthermore, remember that a leader can never be perfect with regard to his or her decisions or course of actions. Depending on a single decision-maker can put a group or organization at risk of failing to accomplish their tasks or meet their goals and objectives.
3. Can Discourage Certain Individuals and Create Tensions
Another weakness of authoritarian leadership is that it discourages certain individuals from joining a team or organization. There are talented people aspire to find deeper meanings in what they do while others want to have an integral part of the group or organizational success through deeper participation and collaboration.
Some individuals who are inherently creative thinkers and problem solvers might feel alienated because they think that they are not contributing to organizational goals and objectives. Highly competent followers might rebel against their authoritarian leaders, or the latter might feel insecure toward the former. The main drawback from all of these is that a team or organization forgoes the chance of benefitting from having a pool of talented members.
4. Eliminated Innovation and Progression from the Process
Remember that authoritarianism is about placing absolute control over a single or limited number of persons. Such style of leadership inherently suffers from the lack of diversity in creative insights or inputs due to the absence of collaboration and the simplification of the reporting line. Some groups or organizations might benefit from these drawbacks.
However, there are groups and organizations, such as tech companies, whose survival depends on innovation and progression. The lack of collaboration under an authoritarian leadership imperils this chance of survival. Take note that innovation and progress depend on collaborative effort, especially in exchange and synthesis of insights and inputs.
5. Creates a Lack of Trust Because of the Necessity of Mistrust
Possibly, another critical disadvantage of authoritarian leadership is that it is built on mistrust. To be specific, authoritarian leaders need to assume that their followers are not performing their roles and responsibilities as they should, thus compelling direct supervision or micromanagement to ensure compliance and generation of intended results.
Most leadership situations placed under authoritarianism are insecure. The leaders are insecure about their followers. On the other hand, the followers might grow tired of the lack of trust and too much control. Remember that in certain situations, the relationship between the leaders and their respective followers are unsustainable due to tension and low morale levels.