Leadership, Leadership Style
What Is Democratic Leadership Style? Definition, Example Pros And, Cons
“The experience of democracy is like the experience of life itself — always changing, infinite in its variety, sometimes turbulent and all the more valuable for having been tested by adversity.”
– Jimmy Carter
Suppose you are working in an organization that encourages and appreciates your participation and your ideas and involves the organization’s members in making decisions for the company. In that case, you can say that your organization follows a democratic leadership style.
While there is more to this leadership style than I said. But this is the simplest gist of what this leadership style stands for. The application of the democratic style of leadership has been successful for different organizations ranging from the government to the corporate and education sectors.
Several industrial pioneers, as well as great country leaders like Abraham Lincoln, set examples as democratic leaders. They have proved the efficiency of this leadership style across different walks of human civilization.
The present article will help you explore the opportunities set by this style of leadership and help you identify its characteristics, strengths, and the ways to use it effectively.
What Is A Democratic Leadership Style?
A leadership style that encourages and promotes freedom in participation, sharing ideas, and exchanging visions can be seen as a democratic leadership style. For example, any work environment that encourages the employees to influence decision-making through active participation is a workplace promoting this type of leadership style.
The openness of conversation, participation, setting of personal goals for the employees, and their ability to self-evaluate are some of the advantages of this type of leadership style. Democratic leadership style is also called “participative leadership,” or “shared leadership” due to the maximum level of participation by the members of the organization.
Obviously, the leader has the final say over the decision for the organization. However, the members of the organization have the opportunity to share their ideas and influence that decision.
An organization adopting a Democratic leadership style opens a path to exploring a wide range of ideas. The democratic style of leadership is everything that autocratic leadership is not. The autocratic leadership style opposes any participation from the members of the company in decision-making, while the democratic style approves the same.
Background/History Of Democratic Leadership Style
The shared or democratic style of leadership style hands members in an organization strong hands in making decisions. It makes them feel valued, important and heard. But when did this style of management come to exist?
Also called a style with two names became popular in recent times. The precise time point of its origin is during the late 20th century. A famous behaviorist named Kurt Lewin conducted a group study identifying the value of the democratic style of leadership.
Kurt Lewin and his colleagues Ronald Lippitt and Ralph K. White prioritize three leadership styles in their study “Leadership and Group Life” They set the Autocratic, Democratic, and laissez-faire leadership styles as the primary leadership styles.
They base their study upon different business leaders and employees. They concluded that the democratic style of leadership was the most popular one among the employees.
In the 1990s, a framework of this leadership style was revealed by John Gastil in an article published in the journal named Human Relations.
This leadership style was indeed effective after the totalitarian ideologies and capitalism during the second world war. It can be viewed as a common ground between more rigid and stern authoritarianism and permissive liberalism. American history is full of some of the great democratic leaders like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Characteristics Of Democratic Leadership Style
The characteristics of the democratic style of leadership make it feel like a leadership style focused on the employees. Some characteristics of it include –
Participation & Collaboration
The group members under the democratic leadership style are encouraged to express their ideas, thoughts, and opinions. They have the freedom of thought and speech and the happiness of collaborating with the leaders to make decisions for the organization.
A democratic leader maximizes the effectiveness of an organization by sharing responsibility with the employees. They maximize the involvement of the employees by handing out fractions of the responsibilities to the employees. They take the advantage of the freedom of participation and share responsibilities with the employees for efficient management and operation.
Being a democratic leader, a leader has to often empower the members of the organization to make decisions. Such leaders also lead by example and make tough decisions. By sharing responsibilities with the employees, such employers stimulate them to improve their critical thinking and increase their competence and self-esteem.
Democratic leaders encourage the members of an organization to share ideas, and they offer them the freedom of creativity. Creativity is always rewarded and appreciated in this style of leadership.
Democratic Leadership Style What’s Good…And What’s Not So Good?
The democratic style of leadership does not follow a command chain like bureaucratic leadership to get a project finished. Instead, they hand out the responsibilities to them. Obviously, this is a great way to lead an organization, but there are some disadvantages of the same. Here are some pros and cons to help you understand –
The Advantages Of Democratic Leadership Style: Pros
- Democratic leaders encourage employee collaboration.
- Such leadership is Inclusive of diverse opinions and perspectives, promoting creative solutions.
- Major group engagement can boost productivity through this leadership.
- The majority of organizations support the outcome of a decision.
- Offers Increased amount of job satisfaction.
- Employees have the necessary rights and freedom of expression.
- Reciprocal trust between the employee and the leader is there.
- Democratic leadership style is good at raising attachment and loyalty to the company’s policies.
- This leadership style enables teams to complete exclusive assignments with ease.
The Disadvantages Of Democratic Leadership Style: Cons
- Leaders have to depend excessively on the moods and the experience of the employees.
- Excessive participation of the employees may delay decision-making.
- Solving conflicts and disputes is also more time-consuming due to the same reason.
- Making a quick decision in a time of crisis becomes difficult for the democratic style of leadership.
- Familiar relations might often make employees reluctant or negligent towards work.
- Monitoring qualitative labor and the achievements of the employees on an individual level becomes tough.
- Involving more people in group discussions may create a gap in communication.
- The process of decision-making may become time-intensive.
- Minority opinion gets overridden.
Democratic Leadership Style: Case Studies (Examples)
Almost all businesses and industry giants follow a mix of different types of leadership. We can cite the name of some of the great American leaders who followed a participative leadership style. For example, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, etc.
But, there are some leading global industries and their leaders and founders who follow this style of leadership to manage their business. Here are two valuable case studies of the same.
Nooyi is an exceptional democratic leader. She is the CEO of the giant company PepsiCo. Nooyi feels concerned about and interested in the lives of her employees. She made quite the startle by sending letters to the parents of the direct reports. In those letters, she informed their parents to be proud of their adult children, who are executives at PepsiCo.
When one new recruit was reluctant to join the company, she called the candidate’s mother, persuading them to join. Her mindful divestitures and acquisitions made fans out of many investors.
Another great example of the democratic leadership style is Ginni Rometty. She has been the CEO of IBM since 2012. She has shown her critical thinking and mindful decision-making skill to improve the company.
As a CEO, she took tough decisions, such as selling the profitable server business that was slowing down. Under her leadership, IBM is partnering with several healthcare companies, governments, and social media organizations to utilize its strength in cognitive computing.
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As a democratic leader, if you want to apply this style of leadership in your organization, then you can incorporate or improve these practices mentioned here.
Invest In Training & Learning
The democratic style of leadership style demands its employees to be as good as possible. They are the main resources of the organization since they take part in influencing the decisions of the organization.
That is why it is critical to gain the necessary training and learning for the employees. Democratic leaders should encourage training and learning among the employees and encourage them to improve their skills. A leader of such a style also has to develop their own skills as well. If possible, they can pick up a few extra skills in the process.
A democratic leader needs to be neutral at all costs. They have to open rooms for the members to share their ideas. But they cannot give in to partiality and approve someone’s idea as a favor. Also, they should not be in a role in influencing the decisions. Such leaders empower the member to suggest ideas and take part in the process of making a decision.
Have Rational Thinking
Democratic leaders need to have a rational mindset. When it comes to measuring the performance of the staff, they are away from the high social stature of autocratic leaders, so they are often comfortable with monitoring inexperienced subordinates. Team-oriented captains in such a leadership style view capable and experienced members as their peers.
Their rationality and consensus-building capability help in mediating disagreements and influence flexible and quick decision-making.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Here are some popularly asked questions that I have answered about democratic leadership. You may find them informative-
A democratic style of leadership creates room for the members of the group in decision-making. They are encouraged and free to share ideas and opinions and help the leaders in making decisions. Such a style of leadership creates a collaborative work environment. Some examples of such leadership are Bill George, Indra Nooyi, and Ginni Rometty.
The democratic leadership style is the best leadership style. It encourages the involvement of the members and creates opportunities for new ideas to flourish. Employees under such leadership have more authority, freedom, and satisfaction with work. It is great for problem-solving, innovating new and creative ideas, and encouraging employee satisfaction.
There are some advantages and disadvantages of the democratic style of leadership.
The Advantages Include –
1. Coming up with creative and new ideas.
2. Throughout decision-making.
3. Employee satisfaction.
Some Of The Disadvantages Are –
1. Delay in decision making and resolving institutional issues.
2. Reduction of efficiency.
3. Problems related to employee accountability.
Is Democratic Leadership Style Effective?
The freedom of employee participation is a key characteristic of this leadership style. The application of such a style in the leading industry is evident in large companies like Google, Mayo Clinic, Amazon, and Twitter. Of course, there are some pros and cons. However, if well managed, this leadership style can do wonders for your small private business.
But, whichever leadership style you choose as a leader, you must evaluate its applicability in your organization before adopting it.