Leadership Styles: Dictatorial, Authoritative, Consultative, Participative

By E. Brown

One of the first leadership books a friend recommended I read was by Myron Rush. He was kind enough to let me read his copy. After I returned the book I searched for a personal copy. I finally found a used one on an obscure Web site that an acquaintance directed me to.

While thumbing through it the other day I was reminded of differing approaches to management. Here is an excerpt and list that I am sure you can relate to.

Leadership Styles

Definitions and descriptions of leaderships styles range from the very simple to the very complex. Leadership styles can be identified by how authority is used, how a leader relates to others, employees minds and muscles are used, and how a leader communicates.

Dictatorial Style

The leader or manager using this style operates like a dictator. He or she makes all the decisions about what, where, when, why, how things are done, and who will do them. Employees failing to following directions are usually severly disciplined or given cause for “early retirement” (as recently happened to a friend of mine).

The dictatorial leader traits are: all decision-making power is theirs, unrealistic in demands, uses excessive discipline and punishment, does not allow others to question decisions or authority

A more passive style of this is: all decision-making power is theirs, unrealistic demands clouded in humor, subtle forms of discipline and punishment, allows questions about decisions (on the surface) but ignores them, pretends to be your friend only to get their way

Authoritative Style

Because of the volatile nature of the dictatorial style, more leaders and managers opt for the authoritative style.

The authoritative leader traits are: seldom lets others make decisions, feels he/she is the most qualified and experienced, considers his/her views to be most valid, lacks confidence in others abilities, critical of differing opinions, rarely gives recognition, is easily offended, uses others for his/her benefit, action oriented, highly comtetitive

The biggest weakness of this style is the failure to recognize the skills and abilities within other people. They are often denied opportunities to use or exhibit their skills in decision-making venues.

Yet, the greatest strength of this style is to produce action when it is needed.

Consultative Style

This style focuses on using the skills, experiences, and ideas of others. However, the leader or manager using this style still retains the final decision-making power. To his or her credit, they will not make major decisions without first getting the input from those that will be affected.

The consultative leader traits are: often involve others in problem solving, team building, retains right for final decisions, focuses his/her time on more important activities, provides proper recognition, delegates but keeps “veto power”, weighs all alternatives before final decision is made

Participative Style

A unique managerial style that many feel uncomfortable with is the participative style. Most of the authority, not all, is given to the team. The manager remains the team leader.

The participative leader traits are: team member ideas or equal with the leader, everyone’s input is considered, leader is team facilitator, leader is coach/player, frequently accepts teams ideas over own, focus is on stimulating creativity, creates culture of innovation

Is there a “right” leadership style? Most manager tend to promote one over another. The fact is there is no “One style”, that one silver bullet. A good leader learns to recognize when and how to use any or all of the above the styles. We will discuss when to use each of the different styles in a following article. Until then, let me know your thoughts.

Related Links
Leadership Styles: When To Use Them
How Leadership Styles Affect Productivity
Personality Types: Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever, and Beaver
You Might Be A Micromanager If…

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67 thoughts on “Leadership Styles: Dictatorial, Authoritative, Consultative, Participative

  1. Roman Bukhtiyar says:

    Hey, I am also interested in management.
    How do you know what type of Leadership a manager should use in this or that situation?

  2. I find myself agreeing with your statement that a good – I’ll take that as consistently effective – leader is one that:

    – Can use any of the styles of leadership with at least competence
    – Knows when to use each style

  3. jonolan,
    As always, good comment. It is easy to gravitate toward one or two styles (in line with one’s personality) and forget to have a balanced approach. It is hard work and often, bosses do not want to do the hard work. They feel they already have and that they earned the right to be jerks or apathetic paper-pushers. No one ever said being a boss/manager was easy.


  4. jonolan,
    As always, good comment. It is easy to gravitate toward one or two styles (in line with one’s personality) and forget to have a balanced approach. It is hard work and often, bosses do not want to do the hard work. They feel they already have and that they earned the right to be jerks or apathetic paper-pushers. No one ever said being a boss/manager was easy.


  5. eb,
    I think many “bosses” never actually learned how to lead. They never had the opportunity or never chose to study the various philosophies involved in leading people. LOL! It’s bloody hard work all right.


  6. jonolan,

    Well said. I know of many occasions when a person has been promoted into management because they were good workers. They were never assessed for leadership skills. The promotee never thought about it either — they were glad to get the added salary. Yet, after time the truth came out.
    I know of one rare occasion, when a new manager asked to be demoted because he realized he was in over his head. Kudos to him for recognizing he was working outside of his skill set. Not many like that around.

  7. While leadership is often thought of a vague subject, it’s really a lifelong journey of self-improvement in the area of leading teams to achieving your goals. we can all improve our leadership through the study of the principles and some self-awareness and the willingness to apply these ideas in our teams.

  8. @Chris – Well said. It is a journey and you hit on one of the more profound truths in good leaders, they are self-aware. To many leaders run about “doing things” without being very effective. That is why I am a big advocate of accountability. We always do better when someone we trust is watching. They are looking out for our best interests and not trying to play “one ups-manship.”

    Thanks for the comment! -eb

    • strawberry features says:

      i think they should as it will help students to get examples as there are only really examples of dictatorial and i really need a consultative leader example.

  9. Nathan says:

    Am very excited and highly motivated by your approach to these realities. I would appreciate if you give examples to these leadership realities!

    You are doing good.



  10. Rizwan Kapoor says:

    in my opinion an authortative leader can produce resluts for time being, say in a specific project but the real challange to develop team and to guide them to prosper in every field is perhaps un-known to such leaders. i observe such leaders have killing instinct and they will sideline people who differ their ideas. ultimately people will stop sharing ideas and their best inputs and will wait for the time when top man will realize who is playing the fate of his company and employees, alas! till that time a compnay may have lose some very useful and productive employees. again it is just my observation such people do not have in-depth knowledge of product or dont know the planning, team building etc but they will only use their authority and will try to work fast with out sharing objective to move being taken. it is like a car running in full speed in which a person who is driving dont know how to reduce speed in case of brakes failure. instead of lowering speed and putting car in down gears that driver will keep on trying to press brakes paddle. it is too risky to give driving seat to such person.

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    • Eric Brown says:

      It is likely you will have some success in the short-term but not in the long-term. Dictatorial leaders tend to have high-turn over in staff. If it’s a reputable company an employee may stick around for a while to have the name on their resumé. If the company does not carry a high reputation you can expect churn. Ask your direct reports what their preferred leadership style is.

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  18. Joe says:

    Do you mean to say “authoritarian” style rather than “authoritative”? I’m pretty sure. Authoritarians lord over people, with power of their position. “Authoritative” means the person is an authority on a subject, has expertise on something.

    • Joe says:

      Maybe not. I guess “authoritarian” leadership would be indistinguishable from “dictorial.” And “authoritative,” while less punitive, can also cause resentment… if you think your own authority is necessarily superior to others all the time. Like you’re their parent, or something. I get it….

  19. Someone says:

    Just so you know… Authoritative style is actually a great style of management. You described the Authoritarian style.

  20. I think your definition of Authoritative is rather interesting. It’s reads more like Authoritarian; which is what a dictator is too. An Authoritative person is defined by being knowledgeable, trusted, and respected. Authoritative parents teach their children, so they can be successful independent of their parents influence, and they allow for failure as they under stand mistakes provide opportunities for improvement; rather than Authoritarian parents who dictate to their children what they will do, set high standards for them, and rely primarily on punitive measure to keep them obedient.

    Look it up. You don’t appear to have an authoritative leadership style present on your list, but Consultative comes close. Perhaps authoritative might be a mixture of Consultative and Participative, depending on the circumstances.

    Dictatorial is merely overtly Authoritarian: where, in general, Authoritarian leaders in the workplace utilize rather covert and underhanded manipulative techniques to control their subordinates, Dictators aren’t afraid to clearly state that what is what.

    For example: one might asked to be consulted before action is taken, but otherwise not complain if things were done right, and the other would say, outright, I make the decisions around here! But both would be Authoritarian if the result of wrongful action was a harsh scolding or punishment. The later of the two is just more extreme.

    On the other hand, an Authoritative leader would encourage their subordinates to make decisions on their own, but also encourage those subordinates to consult with them if they were unsure, or if the consequences of failure would be severe. Likewise an Authoritative parent may have a rule for their kids regarding the distance they can play from home, but they wouldn’t punish them severely for breaking them, they’d just impress on them the reason the rule exists: the further away you go, the less likely I can find you and help you in a timely manner if you become injured.

    Across the board, Authoritative people are dramatically more democratic and nurturing and reasonable than Authoritarians… it doesn’t make any sense for them to be listed here as something else.

  21. Blake Argo says:

    I think that you hit the nail on the head when it comes to explaining the different types of leadership styles. I think that good leadership is key when it comes to being successful. I have been following the career of Mark Hurd for the last few years now, since he has taken over at Oracle. I have also been impressed with his leadership and ability to turn a company around. I have closely following his statements at OpenWorld 2016 and I am excited for what he has in store and I am looking forward to the direction that Oracle is heading in the next few years.

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