What Is Authoritative Leadership?

Of the many types of leadership, authoritative styles are some of the most controversial, but also the most effective. Authoritative leaders do what it takes to get tasks completed and objectives met. When used well, an authoritative leadership style helps managers to make quick, effective decisions and keep employees at their best.

In this article, we discuss what authoritative leadership is, explore its types and outline the steps required to become an authoritative leader.

What is authoritative leadership?

Authoritative leadership refers to a management style where the leader is in complete control. An authoritative leader is one who sets the goals, determines the processes and oversees all steps it takes to reach those goals with little or no input from team members. Authoritative leadership drives organizations and their employees toward common goals. These types of leaders work with employees at every step of their processes, leading and coaching them to success.

The main difference between an authoritative and an authoritarian leader is that once authoritative leaders show employees how to complete tasks, they let them continue on their own. Doing so sparks innovation and new ideas for accomplishing daily tasks.

Types of authoritative leadership

The four major types of authoritative leadership are:


This type of manager moves people into action through sternness. These managers hold their teams to very high standards.


This type of authoritative leadership places more focus on experience and intuition. They apply their own knowledge to issues that arise and address all employees based on previous solutions. Instead of using anger, sternness or intimidation, they lead through guidance, sharing lessons they learned in the past with their teams. Reflective leaders determine the best strategy for all team members, leading them closer to success.


Some leaders alter their approach to each situation. For example, some employees only respond to stern feedback. They need a sense of intimidation to improve. Others respond better to calm guidance and reflection. In other cases, it simply depends on the variables of the given situation. Adaptive leaders change their approach as necessary to meet the needs of their employees.


Reactive authoritatives feel the need to prove themselves with overcompensative action. Their management style is rather intense, meeting employee problems with stern reactions. This often encourages employees to work harder and more efficiently.

How to be an authoritative leader

Use these steps to become an authoritative leader:

  1. Define your purpose.

  2. Set your parameters.

  3. Engage with your employees.

  4. Explain your reasoning.

  5. Reflect on the situation.

1. Define your purpose

Ask yourself what you bring to your organization as a leader. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and assess your overall ability. Practicing these exercises helps you define your purpose as a manager. For example, your purpose may be to help and guide employees to be their best. Alternatively, your purpose may focus on ensuring your department has the best scores. Perspective helps to define your purpose.

2. Set your parameters

Consider your parameters, especially regarding boundaries and accountability. Ask yourself how far you would go in helping an employee or making sure they work optimally. Write down your answers and align them with organizational goals to determine how well the two match together. If your parameters do not align well with company goals and standards, they must be addressed before moving forward to the next step.

3. Engage with your employees

Instead of staying within your office, push yourself to remain on the floor with your employees. Watch what they’re doing and get involved where necessary. Ask them questions about how you can improve processes for them. Do your best to be part of your team and their work so that you can better understand what occurs on a daily basis.

4. Explain your reasoning

When a problem arises with a particular employee, be transparent with them and explain your reasoning. Address the issue in a calm manner and outline when a problem occurred and how you identified it. In doing so, help the employee understand how to handle the situation better in the future. Rather than scold them, ensure they learn something new.

5. Reflect on the situation

Once you address problems to the best of your ability, take a moment to reflect on them. Ask yourself what went wrong in the beginning and what you can do to prevent a similar situation. Also, consider how you addressed the problem with the employee. If there were any moments that could be improved, remember them the next time you engage with an employee.

Benefits of authoritative leadership

Some of the advantages of authoritative leadership include:

Reduced number of mistakes

Because employees have particular rules to follow with an authoritative leader, mistakes are less likely to occur. Authoritative leaders spend time with their employees, teaching them the best methods of handling certain situations. They rely on previous experience in developing teams to be more efficient, more productive and safe.

Boosted productivity

When processes are clearly laid out for employees, they can focus more on achieving their daily tasks. They spend less time concerned with potential problems and more time innovating and completing their work.

Improved decision making

Authoritative leaders often make decisions on their own. Instead of consulting with employees or other managers, they make the most effective call in the shortest amount of time. This type of decision-making works well in high-stress environments or emergency situations. Organizations need leaders who have the ability to think clearly even in difficult circumstances.

When to use authoritative leadership

Authoritative leadership works well for meeting urgent needs quickly. It works best in emergencies that need a solution as soon as possible. This type of leadership provides a much-needed productivity boost just before deadlines and improves decision-making during delays or similar situations. Authoritative leadership also works well in situations where there is little room for error. This type of leader may make fast decisions, but each one is highly effective. In roles where there is a high risk of injury, employees need a firm leader to guide them appropriately and instill the level of detail and care needed.