An autocracy is a government in which one person has all of the power. The definition can be seen when broken down to the term “auto”, which means, “self” or “by one’s self.” It explains an extreme rule in a nation, company, or region. The power here is limitless, or, it is a perceived sense of limitless power. One person wants to be the boss and make every single decision.
This is not how most organizations or governments are supposed to rule. Governments are supposed to rule by a head of state, that is, a head of the state, not the decision-maker of the state. The head of state presides over all other decision-makers in most governments, even in dictatorships.
What do autocracies look like?
Autocrats function with very little input from the decision-makers or stakeholders around them. The leader of the group makes all of the decisions, regardless of the consequences or rules, or policies on the table. In some places, this is needed, but it is a rare occasion where an autocratic system runs well while also maintaining human rights.
Even in a company with autocracy, human rights are violated every day. Nothing is done about it because people want to keep their jobs. The environments, in government or in the private sector, are extremely structured. Nobody is unsure of who is in charge, but fear is the culture that gets the work done.
The processes and policies are well defined, and rarely is anyone confused about what the expectation is. Unfortunately, for an autocratic leader, the rules don’t apply. So there are spontaneous crises every day. In these situations, the autocrat will typically have a fallback leader to cast the blame on.
In extreme situations, it can work for temporary emergency measures. But, as a system, autocracy does not go unnoticed and can result in revolt.
Examples of autocracy
While the line between an autocracy and a dictatorship can be challenging to determine, experts generally agree on several historical examples of autocracies, including the following—some of which are ongoing:
- The Soviet Union while ruled by Joseph Stalin
- Italy while ruled by Benito Mussolini
- Japan while ruled by Hirohito
- Germany while ruled by Adolf Hitler
- China while ruled by Mao Zedong
- Cuba while ruled by Fidel Castro
- Venezuela while ruled by Nicolas Maduro
- Russia while ruled by Vladimir Putin
Examples of autocrats
Some autocracy examples include both corporate and government examples. A common corporate example is the world of Microsoft as run by Bill Gates. Many have called him an autocrat as he has led an authoritarian style. Many people still use Windows.
Abraham Lincoln was also considered an autocrat by some and made Civil War decisions on his own. Still, it resulted with the end of slavery, and the loss of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Napoleon Bonaparte was an autocrat as well, and a successful one if you asked him. His empire was made of 70 million people and he thought he did well. His empire may have been the most divisive and destructive in France’s history.