Democratic Leadership Style: Define and Benefits

Being a good bellwether does not always mean ordering and force. A worthy businessman knows that care, support and gentle advice could have a much greater effect than rigid instructions. Of all candidates for priority, one is selected who stands out for greater activity, interest in the common cause, awareness, and effectiveness. The subject, offering own vision, unites staff, ensuring solidarity. Thus, the leader is not one who wants to be followed, but for whom people go without coercion.

Democratic Leadership Definition

The democratic style implies a policy of mutual dialogue and participation in the company’s promotion through personal growth of laborers. Personnel voluntarily agree to subordination in exchange for respect and material rewards from the authorities. Such type is usually characterized by holding a multitude of meetings, attentive attitude to the ideas of each worker, a generous bounty for the desired behavior and a weak criticism of unsatisfactory work.

This is a collegiate method that gives greater freedom but under the supervision of a head. Democrat prefers mechanisms of influence, which appeal to the needs of a higher level. He or she likes to act in a team, not pulling at the strings of power. A manager invests a lot of effort in creating an atmosphere of openness and trust as laborers need help, they, without hesitation, could turn to him/her.

Democrat constantly and in detail informs staff about a state of affairs and prospects. This makes easier to mobilize workers for reaching certain objectives. Awareness strengthens a sense of ownership and self-worth of all firm’s members, without exception. Chief’s notions are reduced to the next hypotheses:

  • in comfortable conditions, people will not only assume responsibility but will also strive for it;
  • wage-earners, attaching to strategic decisions, are distinguished by a high level of self-control and self-government;
  • creative and intellectual potential of a person is best revealed by observing equality.

Of course, democracy is permissible regarding specialists with huge experience and moderate ambitions. Egoists may lead a firm to voluntaristic decisions and, consequently, to economic losses.

History of Democratic Leadership

This type of management became popular in the late 20th century. It was then a behaviorist Kurt Levin conducted group experiments in order to establish the advantages of a participatory category. A team with an autocratic bellwether performed tasks well, as long as the leader was present and exercised control. However, its members at the same time experienced a growing dislike towards him. A group of democrats also coped with the assignment, but its participants felt positive emotions to the boss. Besides, efficiency did not decrease even when he was absent.

After Levin, the number of studies in this area has increased significantly. So, Tennenbaum and Schmidt have proved that degree of autocracy and democracy depends on the circumstances. In those cases when it takes too long to train workers, individuals tend to use an autocratic style. If employees are able to quickly learn skills, democracy may be applied.

Such interest is not surprising since the Second World War offered the world capitalistic and totalitarian ideologies, each of which was represented by its leader. Western countries propagandized constitutional rights and freedoms that ultimately won over unity of command and proved their effectiveness.

Participative style represents a kind of “golden mean” between rigid authoritarianism and all-permissive liberalism. A respectful attitude towards laborers is based on the fact that interests of an individual are valued no less than company’s ones. The reason consists in a firm belief that a coworker is an integral part of a huge mechanism, without which a successful functioning of the firm is not possible.

American history knew a lot of successful democratic leaders. For instance, George Washington was one of the first to appoint qualified experts to the Oval Office. He chose to surround himself with strong rivals, thinking, first of all, about the future of the state. This explains his voluntary refusal from the third presidential term. Another interesting representative of this approach is Dwight D. Eisenhower, who, even during the war, managed to lead the troops democratically.

Charismatic John Kennedy abused principle of non-interference towards the launch of the Apollo program. But thanks to his steadfastness, he managed to solve the Cuban missile crisis. Jimmy Carter's failure was his orientation to dilettantes, who often inclined him to make a wrong decision. So, participative style is fruitful in stable terms, but you should not resort to it in extreme conditions.

Democratic in Business

The company’s structure includes a lot of people, from the immediate boss to the service staff. The rule of equal participation should be used if your milieu consists of experienced players who could make valuable amendments or suggestions. For instance, when it comes about information technologies or new educational procedures.

Democratic type in business has justified itself in pharmaceuticals, where teams of chemists are engaged in the development of medicines. Herewith there is a strictly limited admission to hospitals and laboratories. The participatory style works best with creative areas, design firms and corporations focused on research. The same can be said about the housing sector and gadgets.

The world of economics is full of examples of effective democracy. For instance, the latter led Google into the world's leaders, thanks to an ability to search and pool talents by building an atmosphere of trust. Genentech, one of the first to unravel the secret of DNA, managed to attract promising biologists by promoting democratic values. During the stagnation of the BMW campaign, in order to save a native company, employees committed to releasing a new brand of car, which was done.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Participative Leadership

Pluses of democratic leadership are obvious. Most people prefer to cooperate with a chief encouraging a joint discussion of the problem. It is significant to them that their opinion is not ignored. But some investors consider such softness as superfluous because it could reduce the productivity of work.

Instead of constructivism, we get constant meetings and empty reflections. It should be noted that this type of management is strictly not suitable for crises and other extreme situations that the company faces in the course of its activities. Therefore, with considering potential advantages and disadvantages of participative leadership, it depends on the leader, which type of administration is more acceptable for his/her team.

Pros of Democratic Leadership

  • Increasing of job satisfaction;
  • Expansion of rights and freedoms for employees and the emergence of team spirit;
  • Formation of reciprocal trust between staff and superiors;
  • Raising loyalty and attachment to the company's policies;
  • Orientation to a goal;
  • Encourage creativity and innovation;
  • An ability to solve exclusive assignments.

Cons of Democratic Leadership

  • Excessive leader’s dependence on the experience and mood of workers;
  • Resolution of conflict situations and disputes takes more time than with autocracy;
  • Difficulty in making quick decisions during a crisis;
  • A boss may feel guilty for firing a “bad” laborer;
  • Negligent attitude towards work due to familiar relations;
  • Inability to conduct a qualitative monitoring of labor achievements for identifying the contribution of each individual to the common cause.

Benefits of Participative Leadership

In firms, where a democratic style dominates, a manager personally deals only with the most complex and important issues, providing wage-earners with everything else. He or she is not subject to stereotypes and varies own behavior in accordance with circumstances. Orders are made in the form of proposals, taking into account the workers’ opinions. This is due not to the absence of own opinion or the desire to share responsibility, but the belief that during a skillfully organized discussion, best solutions could always be found.

Such a chief is well versed in merits and weaknesses of personnel. He or she focuses on their capabilities, aspiration for self-expression through intellectual and professional potential. Desirable results are reached by convincing about appropriateness and significance of the duties assigned to performers.

In relationships, a bellwether is always tactful. Conflicts are perceived as a natural phenomenon, from which it is possible to benefit if you delve into their root cause and essence. Under such a system of communication, the activities of a leader are combined with education of his/her laborers, so a feeling of trust and respect is strengthened between them.

Democratic Leadership Examples

This style implies a competent combination of one-man management with simultaneous involvement of wage-earners to the company’s development. The chief chooses a special manner of interaction, which has its own peculiarities: he or she does not “pull the strings” from above, but coacts with own laborers. So, a democratic style of leadership is useful when all team members demonstrate high professionalism and interest in promoting the company.

For instance, Dorothy Roberts, executive director of Echo Scarves, provides a capacity to make independent decisions to representatives of various departments. She formed a corporate culture where openness, honesty, and support of laborers are highly valued.

Chairman of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi demonstrates a sincere interest in everyday lives of the firm's colleagues, sending letters with gratitude to their parents. Muhtar Kent from the board of Coca-Cola, thanks to the creation of a friendly atmosphere, managed to increase sales and profitably distinguish the company among competitors.

Thus, democracy in the company is an excellent management method, forming a favorable climate in the team, coherence and a sense of the importance of each employee. With the right approach, this style of leadership does not weaken but strengthens the authority of the powers. His/her prestige among workers increases, because the supervision is conducted without pressure and gross subordination, and the aims are reached by a single effort.