Authoritative Decision Making

What is it?

Authoritative decision making is one decision making style utilized by leaders. If it becomes the default and is the one method a leader uses, it can cause serious problems. In any particular situation, it's useful to have a range of different strategies to choose from. Other decision making styles include facilitative, consultative and delegative.

Let's go through these in turn and consider the pros and cons of each.


The authoritative decision making style is useful when the leader possesses all the necessary information and has the required expertise to make the best decision. He/she makes the decision and the subordinates are then informed of what the decision is.

This style is useful when the leader is the expert, and when a fast decision is required. The leader takes sole responsibility for the decision. Depending on the situation, this aspect could actually be listed under both pros and cons!

The authoritative decision making style is least useful when there is expertise available elsewhere that the leader could call on to make a more effective decision. Nor is it useful if it becomes the only decision making style used by power driven individuals.


The facilitative decision making style indicates a joint effort between leaders and subordinates, both providing input to make a shared decision. It is important that subordinates have access to the information required to make the decision. They should also have some degree of expertise and/or motivation to ensure an effective decision is made.

Responsibility for this decision is shared and this style can actually be very empowering to subordinates, unlike the authoritative decision style which can have quite the opposite effect. The facilitative style is useful when the risks of a poor decision are minimal and the benefits of including the subordinates are significant, such as arranging timetables, or benefit programs.


Consultative decision making is said to occur when the leader asks for advice and opinions from his subordinates, and makes the decision himself. As in the authoritative decision making style, responsibility remains with the leader.

If the subordinates have expertise or information that will help make a more effective decision, a wise leader will ask for it. But unless the subordinates understand that that's what is occurring, it can lead to upset or disappointment.



Delegative decision making, as the name implies, is when a leader passes responsibility for the decision making and the decision to one or more subordinates. It may even be all the subordinates.

Again, the pros and cons are determined by the expertise and knowledge of those actually making the decision. The style obviously comes into its own as the organization gets larger, and means the leader does not necessarily have to make all the decisions.


A good leader will move easily between the styles depending on context. It takes quite a degree of awareness of self, as well as an understanding of the limits of your own expertise, to be flexible in this way.

The effects

It is said that authoritative decision making gives rise to decisions that get things done.

However, the results are short lived unless there is a sense of legitimacy about the decisions. In other words, the appropriate relationship exists between the decision maker and the subordinates.

Studies also suggest that authoritative decision making by mothers shows up as higher grade point averages and less occurrence of risky behaviors in European and American adolescents.

You can read about other essential leadership skills as well as receive leadership training from

Read about a slightly different categorization of leadership styles...

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