Is there a formal antonym for the word "dictator" other than " democratic" to describe a school principal?

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    In the political sense, you could use statesman, meaning an honorable and generally well-liked politician (Yes, those used to be a thing that existed). Not sure that could be applied to a school principal, however, thus comment and not an answer. – Darrel Hoffman Apr 3 '16 at 16:10
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    Typist? – terdon Apr 3 '16 at 16:33
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    "Doormat" is a term that likely would be applied. – Hot Licks Apr 3 '16 at 17:33
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    it rather depends what you mean by "dictator" – Jodrell Apr 4 '16 at 10:38
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    "Democratic" is not remotely an antonym of "dictator". I hope you realize that makes answering a bit awkward. Judging by your reactions to the answers, you seem to be asking for terms for a leadership style that considers the input (or the opinions) of others. Is that accurate? – The Nate Apr 4 '16 at 23:10

14 Answers 14



  • a ​person who ​believes that the ​existence of different ​types of ​people, ​beliefs, and ​opinions within a ​society is a good thing.

Cambridge Dictionary

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    However, a "dictator" does not necessarily mean a "facist dictator". A dictator is just somebody who tells others what to do with a strict level of authority. Therefore, somebody who "believes that the ​existence of different ​types of ​people, ​beliefs, and ​opinions within a ​society is a good thing", and strictly enforces the society to act in this way, could be considered a dictator. It just so happens that many dictators in history have been linked with facism, but that is not the definition of a dictator. – Karnivaurus Apr 3 '16 at 15:12
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    @Karnivaurus I think you mean "fascist". – Jay Apr 4 '16 at 13:37
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    @Karnivaurus is exactly right. The term "dictator" comes to us from the Roman Empire, where it was originally an honorable term: a person temporarily installed as an absolute leader in times of crisis when decisive action was needed. It's when the "temporary" part of it isn't observed that being a dictator starts becoming a real problem. – Mason Wheeler Apr 4 '16 at 17:51

Consider, collegial

Having authority or power shared among a number of people associated as colleagues

Collins English Dictionary

On screen, his persona is as flat and colorless as his home state of Indiana, although around the office he's more like a collegial headmaster, chatty and amiable, yet demanding objectivity from co-workers even when they talk politics by the water cooler. (Source: LA Times)

  • Brad & Elian : Your antonyms are also perfect. Thanks. – mido mido Apr 3 '16 at 8:46
  • This answer makes the most sense in the context that the OP presents. Other answers may be valid if we were talking about a literal dictator, i.e. a ruler over a nation. But that's not the context here. – Jay Apr 4 '16 at 13:41

A good possibility, I think, is an


meaning a person who believes in or promotes equal political, social, and economic rights for all people.

Another possibility is a


who, rather than saying "My way or the highway," says, "Let's negotiate a win/win outcome; that is, a solution we can both live with."

And finally, related to negotiator is a


or a person who engages in give and take; you know, "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours." Behind a compromiser's thinking is a quid pro quo (or tit for tat) mentality. A compromiser says, "If you want to get something you've got to give something."


A consensualist, perhaps? (consensual - relating to or involving consent (OED))

  • Or "consensus", which can entail the faculty and PTA. – user662852 Apr 4 '16 at 13:07

A school principal is a dictator in the strictest sense. However, consider benevolent dictator. It's supposedly the best form of government.

If only we could trust power not to corrupt.

  • Correct spelling is benevolent (google it.) The system will not allow me to make an edit that small. – Level River St Apr 4 '16 at 3:32
  • or just ruler – Crissov Apr 6 '16 at 8:19

I'm not sure democratic is the right antonym, unless every kid in school has a vote, and can elect the head, the teachers, and vote on school policy. Words that might work for your intended meaning:

  • consultative
  • collegiate
  • inclusive
  • collaborative
  • I suspect the original poster was referring to the principal vis-a-vis the faculty, not the students. – Steven Littman Apr 3 '16 at 12:05

Wouldn't the "strict antonym" be someone who can only follow orders? lackey, yes-man, acolyte, slave... ?

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    IMO, this answer should be a comment. – timuzhti Apr 4 '16 at 8:38
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    I had the exact same thought when I read this question! I'm glad someone pointed this out. I would add "subject", "servant", "subordinate" to the list of antonyms for a dictator. – BuvinJ Apr 4 '16 at 16:30
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    @Alpha3031 this should not be a comment. It's a very valid answer in it's own right. – BuvinJ Apr 4 '16 at 16:34
  • @Alpha3031 no, because I don't just ask what the OP meant, I answer based on this interpretation. – JDługosz Apr 4 '16 at 18:05
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    Because of where we are, I feel compelled to point out that "it's" is always "it is" and "its" is the pronoun. – JDługosz Apr 4 '16 at 18:06

Liberator could be used as an antonym if you mean that the school became more liberating due to the efforts of a person. As Wikictionary says:

A person who frees or liberates.

  • "Liberator" has the connotation of a revolutionary, someone overthrowing the powers that be to free the people. If the principal is fighting against the school board or federal authorities, it might be appropriate. But I think the OP here simply means, "one who listens to opinions and advice from others", or "one who lets people under his authority act autonomously". – Jay Apr 4 '16 at 13:50

There are some good suggestions here, though most sound a little formal or odd to me - and I taught for sixteen years and became a political activist, aiming some of fiercest tirades at autocratic principals.

I would be more inclined to describe a principal who is not autocratic as a team player or a member of the community. Of course, those are descriptions, rather than one-word antonyms.

Keep in mind that public schools in the U.S. are ultimately run by corporate interests and tycoons, and principals are therefore strikingly similar to the politicians selected by those same special interests. In this context, user168580's suggest - liberator - might be very appropriate. A principal who actually cares about the students and is connected to the community could also be described as a populist, though that may sound too political to many people.

  • Umm, public schools in the U.S. are run by government, not business interests. Theoretically by local government, though more and more by state and fedeal. Perhaps you're making a political comment, that you believe government is all controlled by big business? But even if so, I'd think schools would be among the organs of government that business interests have the least interest in. – Jay Apr 4 '16 at 13:46
  • No, public education has indeed been corporatized, just like the health care industry. (Remember when we had hospitals instead of HMO's?) – David Blomstrom Apr 5 '16 at 4:45
  • Well, I'm not going to get into a political debate on a language forum. Just want readers to realize this is a debatable political position, not a statement of fact. – Jay Apr 5 '16 at 5:52

latitudinarian in a sense: one who is broadly accepting

  • Please add a quote from a dictionary giving the full definition of this word. Name the specific dictionary you used, and link back to it (if feasible). – Dan Bron Apr 4 '16 at 14:21

diplomatic, perhaps (not in the strict sense of referring to a diplomat, but in the sense of being polite, judicious, and sensitive to others)


I would say anarchist. An anarchist (in one definition) being someone who supports the sovereignty of each individual, rather than the soverignty of a dictator, king, or State. Although many anarchists today refer to themselves are voluntaryists to avoid negative connotations of that word.

  • At the risk of getting into politics, many anarchists (essentially hard-core libertarians) oppose many forms of "equality". I mention that because I see it used in other answers and I felt a quick thought deserved a small mention. Things like economic equality are thought by them to be only achievable when a central power, such as a dictator, acts upon the system to enforce this equality. So the term may not be as exact as desired. – Gavin Apr 4 '16 at 16:06

I know this is NOT what the OP is looking for. However, I must point out that dictator does have actual antonyms. They just don't counter the style of leadership. They counter leadership.

Antonyms for dictator

  • employee
  • follower
  • worker

thesaurus.com: dictator

Those could describe a school principal, from the perspective of the superintendent.


A shepherd is someone in command who puts the well-being of their subjects above everything else, sometimes above their own. That’s why it’s a frequent metaphor in religious, especially Christian contexts (Psalm 23) and it’s the original meaning of pastor.

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