A strongman is a type of authoritarian political leader. Political scientists Brian Lai and Dan Slater identify strongman rule as a form of authoritarian rule characterized by autocratic military dictatorships, as distinct from three other categories of authoritarian rule, specifically machine (oligarchic party dictatorships); bossism (autocratic party dictatorships), and juntas (oligarchic military dictatorships).
A 2014 study published in the Annual Review of Political Science journal found that strongmen and juntas are both more likely to engage in human rights violations and civil wars than civilian dictatorships. However, military strongmen are more belligerent than military regimes or civilian dictatorships—i.e., they are more likely to initiate interstate armed conflict. It is theorized that this is because strongmen have greater reason to fear assassination, imprisonment, or exile after being removed from power. The rule of military strongmen is more likely to end through an insurgency, popular uprising, or invasion; by contrast, the rule of military regimes and civilian dictatorships are more likely to end in democratization.
Authoritarian leaders classified by political scientists as strongmen include Chiang Kai-shek (Republic of China), Ioannis Metaxas (Greece), Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Ayub Khan (Pakistan), Salah Jadid (Syria), Hafez al-Assad (Syria), Siad Barre (Somalia), and Idi Amin (Uganda), as well as Omar Torrijos (Panama),  Manuel Antonio Noriega (Panama), and Hun Sen (Cambodia).
- Brian Lai & Dan Slater (2006). "Institutions of the Offensive: Domestic Sources of Dispute Initiation in Authoritarian Regimes, 1950-1992". American Journal of Political Science. 50 (1): 113–126. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5907.2006.00173.x. JSTOR 3694260.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- Geddes, Barbara; Frantz, Erica; Wright, Joseph G. (2014). "Military Rule". Annual Review of Political Science. 17: 147–162. doi:10.1146/annurev-polisci-032211-213418.
- Jessica L. P. Weeks, Dictators at War and Peace (Cornell University Press, 2014), pp. 76-80.
- Michael L. Conniff, Panama and the United States: The End of the Alliance (University of Georgia Press: 3d ed. 2012), p. 140.
- Michael L. Conniff & Gene E. Bigler, Modern Panama: From Occupation to Crossroads of the Americas (Cambridge University Press, 2019), p. 29.