A strongman is a political leader who rules by force and runs an autocracy or authoritarian regime or totalitarian regime. The term is often used interchangeably with "dictator" in the western world, but differs from a "warlord".
A strongman is not necessarily always a formal head of state or head of government; sometimes journalists use the term to describe a military or political figure who exercises far more influence over the government than a local constitution allows. General Manuel Noriega, for example, though often dubbed the "Strongman of Panama" for the enormous amount of political power he exercised over Panama in the 1980s, was not the formal president or prime minister of the state. In practice, his role was that of a dictator, or sometimes autocrat.