Leadership Style: Authoritative


Authoritative Leadership - Six Styles of Emotional Leadership

Daniel Goleman’s book, Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence discusses the six leadership styles leaders can take to ensure a healthy working environment.

An effective leader has the versatility to implement all six leadership styles in different situations. The leadership styles Goleman outlined in his book are authoritative, democraticaffiliative, pacesetting, commanding, and coaching leader.

In this article, we will focus on the authoritative leadership style.

Table of Contents

What is the Authoritative Leadership Style?

Authoritative leaders focus on guiding their team as a form of mentorship. They set out a clear vision for what they want to accomplish and the challenges they may have in front of them along the way, and they have a plan for helping everyone get there. 

Authoritative leaders are highly enthusiastic about inspiring the same level of enthusiasm and commitment from their team members. They have a high degree of emotional intelligence that allows them to identify effectively with their team members and confidently guide them through that process, adapting to challenges and barriers along the way. 

The Pros and Cons of Authoritative Leadership

Like other forms of leadership, authoritative leadership has both its benefits and its drawbacks. 


Leaders who engage in authoritative leadership—not to be confused with authoritarian leadership, which requires employees and team members to fall directly into line with the leader’s wishes without argument or discussion—may notice several critical advantages. 

  • Authoritative leaders help provide much-needed direction and guidance for their employees. They can often offer their team members the knowledge and support they need to excel and create vital growth opportunities.
  • Authoritative leadership is focused on inspiring and guiding the team, which means it can create an atmosphere of goodwill, encourage employee engagement, and lead to a more practical focus on work.
  •  Team members get a solid idea of the organization’s goals, needs, and plans, which can help keep everyone on the same page and ensure an effective division of responsibilities. 
  • Authoritative leaders can help identify potential challenges that may prevent their team members from accomplishing their goals or the business from reaching its goals. 


  • Not all team members will appreciate the authoritative approach. Some employees may feel that they are being micromanaged or that the oversight is excessive.
  • Can cause some frustration when younger managers charge older colleagues. Those more senior colleagues may feel they “already know how to do those tasks” or have their methods to accomplish their goals.
  • For leaders without a high level of empathy and understanding of employees’ needs, authoritative leadership can be challenging and may not be a good fit for that style.

How is Authoritative Leadership Different from Traditional Management?

Traditional management styles often rely on telling someone what to do and then expecting them to do it. Managers may rely on strict instructions and assume they will receive respect due to their authority rather than building trust through a mentorship-style relationship.

The authoritative leadership style also relies on a manager getting to know every member of the team and providing feedback and assistance geared toward helping them overcome obstacles, rather than simply following the same process that the team has always used or expecting everyone to keep up simply. 

Furthermore, authoritative leaders lead by example as they support and empower their employees, helping them figure out how to accomplish those tasks and best support themselves as they work toward the goals expressed by the company and the team as a whole. 

How Authoritative Leadership Empowers Employees

Authoritative leadership empowers employees in several critical ways: 

  • It provides them with the tools they need to learn how to accomplish tasks independently, including broader problem-solving skills that can help enhance employee performance long after the initial instruction.
  • It helps employees overcome obstacles that might otherwise prevent them from accomplishing their goals. Often, authoritative leaders can put their employees in a better position to work as high performers on the team.
  • Authoritative leadership can help employees advance in their fields since it provides more profound overall knowledge and understanding. 
  • It offers all team members the opportunity to share their input and work closely with the manager, which can help increase both buy-in and creativity. 

Authoritative leadership, at its heart, is designed to help employees progress and provide them with vital support on their employment journeys.

When to Use This Leadership Style

Authoritative leadership has several advantages under many circumstances. However, you should carefully consider what leadership style will likely work best for your specific team. There are several circumstances under which authoritative leadership can serve your team best.

  • Your team needs clear guidance and direction.
  • You have new team members who will benefit from apparent oversight and support. 
  • You have employees who look up to you and appreciate your leadership style. 
  • You feel passionate about your company’s direction and the tasks you’re being asked to accomplish.

While authoritative leadership does fit many circumstances very well, there are also circumstances under which it might not work well for your team. For example, you might find that authoritative leadership does not work well when you do not have the support of your employees or when you’re struggling to connect with a large portion of your team. Furthermore, older employees, or those with more experience than you do in the field or with the company, may feel more resistant to authoritative leadership styles.

How to Be an Authoritative Leader

As an authoritative leader, you need to show your confidence and enthusiasm—and do it in a way that encourages and supports your employees. In general, to be an authoritative leader, you must:

  • Have the expertise to stand as the leader of your group or team.
  • Provide clear direction to your employees, including focusing on the overall vision and where each team member fits into that vision.
  • Empathize with your employees.
  • Take the time to get to know employees’ specific needs. 
  • Guide the team in the correct direction based on clear goals and an understanding of the more profound process needed by your team. 
  • Provide advice and support as employees encounter potential obstacles.

As an authoritative leader, your goal is to mentor and guide your employees through the tasks at hand. That does not mean simply passing down instructions, but instead leading by example, getting deep into the tasks at hand, and providing employees with ongoing support and direction as they try to accomplish their goals.

Learning how to use the various leadership styles effectively in multiple situations, including learning how to be an effective authoritative leader, is a critical part of maintaining your team’s direction and ensuring that you’re able to meet your goals.