Q: Examples of Benevolent Autocratic Leadership?

Question: What are some examples of benevolent autocratic leadership?

Answer: There are a few different clusters here, but all of them are struggling with how to do good and enact good in the world.

One category is Religious Leaders. It could a massive religious organization, or even a Theocracy which rules over a region. Many of them are Benevolent Autocrats; in that they have executive decision making control like a Autocrat and yet are personally guided by noble benevolent values. Tibet having been ruled by Buddhist Monks for centuries is likely a good example, though you’d still want to look at each individual leader. On the topic of religious leaders and their benevolent impact, there is a term in Buddhism called “Dharmarajas” or “Dharma Kings”- Ashoka, Mahajara, and at least 25 or so others throughout history are considered to be Dharmarajas.

Another category is has to do more with Monarchies and how they view their role to the people/their duty. Some have very enlightened views about how to help people, social programs, and making their lands prosperous and fair and empowering. These rulers might also be called Enlightened Despots. Some even were very modern and forward thinking about the shifting role of rulers in the modern age, being very workable and willing to succeed their throne and the Monarchy/Kingdom system (or at least it’s decision making power) into modern forms of democratic government and elected politicians. I think Bavaria and a few other European countries had such views and histories.

Military Leaders- even if they don’t rule a country, etc, I would say also fall into this category. Why? They have executive power over everyone beneath them in Chain Of Command, and yet are demanded to be constantly striving for the welfare and development of their troops- and even the welfare and development of those around them. In that way, it’s no wonder that Stoicism has its roots in philosopher who acted as officers in the military (of ancient greece).

Benevolent Autocrats, Enlightened Despots, and Stoic Philosopher Kings were/are all grappling both what it means to think and aspire to the good (Wisdom) and how they then should best enact it in the world (Ethics). It’s very important that rulers who hold Power also seek to use it well and for good ends, and very much a balancing act between internal mental pursuits of Truth and Morals and external practical demands of Policy, Decision-making, Economy, Health, and many other worldly factors. Otherwise, as those like Thucydides Sir William Butler put it, “The State that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.”


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