Autocratic decision-making involves one person making a decision. The decision-maker evaluates possibilities, chooses a plan, and then the organization implements the plan with no input from other people. The autocratic style carries extreme advantages and disadvantages.
Origin of the Concept
"Autocratic" comes from the Greek "auto," meaning "self" or "alone," and "kratos," which means "power." An autocratic person is a person who governs alone through his self-discretion.
The benefit of an autocratic decision-making style is that it's fast and carries very few impediments to action. Unlike other decision styles that involve more than one person, an autocratic style requires only that one person take action. Time spent communicating, debating and deliberating is therefore minimized. In situations when time is of utmost importance, an autocratic style can be very effective. If the decision maker has good judgment and the right attitude toward the group, the autocratic style can work.
Autocracy has severe drawbacks. Reliance on one person's opinion to guide group decisions means trusting the leader's wisdom, intentions and conscientiousness. Even a very effective person is prone to mistakes, and diffusing power and responsibilities to more than one person allows for deliberation, debate and a more carefully considered plan. It also relieves the leader of the pressures of decision-making. Autocracy relieves other group members of responsibility for the fate of the group. This can make group members apathetic and resigned.
Autocratic decision is stigmatized by its history. Many of the great villains of the modern era -- including Hitler and Stalin -- were autocrats. Often, an autocratic decision-maker has difficulty abdicating power and begins to act in her own interest instead of that of the group. But because she holds all decision-making power, it's difficult to unseat her.