What is Democratic Leadership and when does it work?
There are many leadership styles that exist in the business world with democratic leadership (not to be confused with the American political term) being one of them. Yes, leaders have a responsibility to make decisions but must it always come down to just one person?
Decisions made by democratic leaders are based on the general consensus and will often be put to a vote before any actions are taken. It is a leadership style that promotes addressing a variety of opinions. Although some may oppose the action, at the end of the day the majority rules. Democratic leadership is regarded as a highly effective style when it comes to leading a team of people and generating new ideas. When people can voice their opinions, they feel more engaged and willing to produce higher quality work.
What is democratic leadership?
Also known as participative leadership, democratic leadership is when multiple people have a hand in making decisions rather than just one. Whilst there still may be one de facto leader, they use their engagement abilities to present their ideas to their team members. A democratic leader will then give their team an opportunity to discuss whether or not to go ahead with the proposal. At the same time, team members can provide alternative ideas and their own input.
An example of democratic leadership
Let’s say there is a group of people working for a startup. The CEO and owner of the startup begin to face some challenges around the work environment. They work together in a small group space and are starting to grow tired of the commute from home to work. The CEO thus proposes a new ‘work from home’ business plan and organises a meeting with her employees to present the idea. Many are onboard but there are also several employees who are against. One employee raises that teams work better when everyone is in the one place and if they start working remotely, their productivity will suffer. The CEO listens and understands. Another employee then proposes that the team can communicate over tools like Zoom and Slack. The working from home model is put to a vote and the majority rule in favour. This instance of leadership is a prime example of making decisions using democratic leader tactics.
Characteristics of democratic leaderships
A democratic leader encourages creativity, honesty, integrity, and is always willing to listen to others when they express concerns or share ideas. A democratic leader leads by their morals and values. One of their main tactics is to seek the opinion of others and go to their employees for input when they have an idea. They listen to opposing stances and have the ability and patience to listen.
When can democratic leadership work?
Democratic leadership thrives in many industries. In fact, technological and healthcare industries have relied on this style of leadership for years. In an industry or workplace setting where high turnout is common, democratic leadership is useful to ensure that employees stay in one place for longer periods of time.
Democratic leadership works when it’s done in the right setting. It may not be the best for certain situations where an emergency requires one leader to make quick and critical decisions. However, democratic leadership works well when there is an opportunity to adapt and change (and when isn’t there?).