Autocratic Decision Making



Autocratic Decision Making

Autocratic decision making works well when there’s time pressure, when you have all the information you need to make a decision, and when your group is crystal-clear on what the execution would look like.


Slow Fast
Independent Collaborative
Hierarchical Egalitarian
Private Transparent

I alone decide.

Autocratic means deciding by yourself. Sometimes the fastest and easiest thing is just to tell the group what to do and how to do it. In absolute contrast to consensus, no members of the group are asked for their input or invited to shape the decision.


  • Fast
  • Unambiguous next steps
  • Conveys strength


  • May miss crucial information or perspectives
  • Overuse lowers group engagement and morale

The Process

  1. Review the situation
  2. Decide what you want to do about it
  3. Communicate that decision and your reasoning to the people who will carry it out 

Avoid These Common Traps

People don’t carry out your orders
You can decide for others, but you can rarely force them to follow your orders. First, make sure they understand why you made the decision. Share your thought process and constraints. Second, make sure they have the bandwidth to carry out your orders by removing non-essential tasks or de-prioritizing other projects.

People won’t think for themselves how to implement the decision
When you tell people what to do, they often stop thinking for themselves and become accustomed to waiting for instructions. If you need to make an autocratic decision, be sure to tell people what parts of the process they can feel free to own and control. 

Alternative Models

If you realize you don't have all the information you need to make the decision, and that information is spread across multiple group members, fall back to the consultative model.

If one person in the group has the best insight into the decision and time is urgent, hand off the decision through delegation.