Difference Between Autocratic and Democratic Leadership

Leading, inspiring and motivating a group of people to achieve a common goal is an enormous task. A leader must possess personality and leadership skills to make others follow his/her cause.


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It has nothing to do with titles, seniority, or personal attributes. Autocratic or monothetic leadership practices the centralization of power. On the other hand, democratic leadership gives liberty to other parties or groups to decide.

Key Takeaways

  1. Autocratic leadership is centralized and authoritarian, while democratic leadership is participatory and inclusive.
  2. Autocratic leaders make decisions independently and impose them on others, while democratic leaders involve their team members in decision-making.
  3. Autocratic leadership is helpful in emergencies or situations that require quick action, while democratic leadership fosters teamwork and innovation.

Autocratic vs Democratic Leadership

The difference between Autocratic and Democratic Leadership is the authority they proceed. Autocratic leadership is centralized. Whereas the democratic is precisely the opposite, it is decentralized. The autocratic has a high level of control over the subordinates. Conversely, democratic leadership has less command as compared to the former. The followers of the autocrats are obedient, uneducated, and unskilled. On the other side, followers of democrats are professional and experienced.

Autocratic vs Democratic Leadership

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Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonAutocraticDemocratic
DefinitionAutocratic leadership has only one person with the authority to make decisions and takes little to no input from other groups.Democratic leadership allows everyone to participate in decision-making.
The flow of AuthorityCentralizedDecentralized
Level of ControlHighLow
Applicable groupsMost likely were uneducated, obedient, and unskilled subordinates.Most are experienced and professional team members.

What is Autocratic Leadership?

Autocratic or authoritarian leadership refers to a person who demonstrates control over all decisions, taking little to no input from other groups or individuals.

They make resolutions out of their judgments, ideas, and beliefs.

An autocratic leader is someone who can be like a dictator. They usually instil fear and control to gain power over people.

Familiar names like Adolf Hitler, Queen Elizabeth I, King Henry III, and Napoleon Bonaparte are said to be one of those people from the world’s history who demonstrated autocratic leadership.

Characteristics of an Autocratic Leadership

  1. An autocratic leader enforces his/her ideas or judgment and tells his subordinates what to do all the time, which often leads to micromanagement.
  2. He/ she also makes decisions alone, without confiding to anyone else.
  3. Having a team is almost irrelevant since the members were rarely asked for input.

Although it may sound cynical, autocratic leadership has its advantages:

  1. It is helpful for a small group that lacks leadership.
  2. It is effective in a crisis.
  3. Allows fast decisions to be made.
  4. It improves productivity.
  5. It improves communication.
  6. It reduces the risk of employee stress.
  7. Counters team inexperience.

It also has disadvantages:

1. Often leads to micromanagement – With the leader’s reputation on the line, it is unsurprising that many leaders tend to micromanage. Workers were sometimes forced to report every activity by a given time, thus resulting in productivity decreasing.

2. Creating a culture based on the leader – “Follow the leader” phrase is prevalent in this example.

The employees’ work ethics are solely based on the work ethics of their leader, which means that if their leader has a poor work ethic, no one will be likely to step up, and this habit doesn’t change anytime soon.

3. It does not give credit nor has a sense of ownership – Leaders are in charge of making decisions, which means that even if the idea came from a subordinate or a group, the leader will either take the credit or fall for the decision.

4. Lack of trust – Contrary to the norm where a successful working relationship is built with confidence, autocratic leadership is founded with mistrust.

It makes sense since leaders must assume that their subordinates are not performing well, which requires direct supervision to ensure the results. It hinders creativity, cooperation, and, most of all, initiative.

autocratic leadership

What is Democratic Leadership?

Democratic leadership, also known as participative leadership, allows everyone to participate in decision-making.

It is often confused with the idea of democracy.

The individuals involved do not share the same hierarchical status but share the same power and liberty in making decisions.

U.S. Presidents, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Jimmy Carter are just a few names written in history who exhibits democratic leadership,

Here are the characteristics of democratic leadership:

  1. The collaboration of ideas is free-flowing.
  2. The responsibility is shared among the group of subordinates.
  3. The leaders often select who is tasked with the decision-making committee from the group.
  4. Democratic leadership maintains mutual respect within the workplace, and open conversations, suggestions, and objective criticisms are welcome.
  5. Democratic leaders are often seen in a democratic country, in non-profit organizations, and in innovative companies.

Advantages of democratic leadership:

  1. Anyone can practice this type of leadership.
  2. Has a higher chance of solving complex matters quickly.
  3. Improves the team’s knowledge, participation, and productivity.
  4. Boost self-esteem and enhances the quality of work.
  5. It creates awareness and accountability.

Disadvantages of democratic leadership:

  1. If misapplied, it may cause disharmony.
  2. Democratic leadership gives the group so much liberty that it is sometimes hard to draw a line between the leader and subordinates.
  3. It doesn’t always provide a positive outcome, especially when leaders let the majority of the population decide on his/her behalf.
democratic leadership

Main Differences Between Autocratic and Democratic Leadership

  1. Autocratic leadership is a type of management wherein only one person is responsible for making decisions out of his/her belief and judgment. On the other hand, democratic leadership shares decision-making power with the group.
  2. The ideas and communication in a democratic leadership flow are the opposite of autocratic leadership, wherein the decision comes from the leader alone.
  3. The responsibilities and accountability are shared in democratic leadership, while one person will take the credit or fall in autocratic leadership.
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  1. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-autocratic-leadership-2795314
  2. https://status.net/articles/democratic-leadership-participative-leadership/
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2 thoughts on “Difference Between Autocratic and Democratic Leadership”

  1. had it not been askanydifference website, where would have gone to find the difference between Autocratic and Democratic Leadership

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