Democratic Leadership Style

Taking Up a Democratic Leadership Style? Do Your Homework First!

Leaders often resort to different styles of leadership; some provide complete authority, while others allow the participation of group members to arrive at certain decisions. The democratic leadership style is one such style, and has been discussed here in detail.
Leadership is essential in almost every area of life. From the field of education, to a corporate environment, to that of a hospital, and even in a household, the kind of leadership style that is prevalent defines the course of action of the members of the organization. When effective, this leadership style helps growth, development, and success. There are six charted out leadership styles, of which, we will discuss the effectiveness, pros, and cons of the democratic leadership style.

What is Democratic Leadership?

In a setting that allows for democratic leadership, the decision-making process and overall responsibility among the group members is shared. No decisions are made without consultation from group members by the leader, so that the final result is an outcome of group effort, and not individual choices. Tasks are delegated to subordinates effectively, where the implementation of the task is entirely in their hands. Feedback is always welcome and every member is encouraged to function as a leader in terms of decision-making and execution of decisions.

The democratic leadership style can be used in a variety of fields that involve service such as nursing and health care, creative fields where brainstorming is essential to produce effective results, and fields that involve consultancy so that various points of view help in arriving at the best decision possible. Even in the field of manufacturing or any other organization for that matter, this style facilitates the process of arriving at solutions for say cost-cutting, improvement in product quality, or improvement in the quality of customer service. This leadership style may also be applicable in the field of education in some cases.

Advantages

This leadership style enforces a work environment where everyone is allowed to contribute to the decision-making process. This not only gives a certain amount of importance and authority to the group members, but also makes them more responsible as the burden of executing the choices they have made rests on their own shoulders. Involving more members in the decision-making process enables the group to reach the best solution possible. The variety of viewpoints allows the group to deal with every challenge after analyzing each perspective, and provide solutions in the same manner. By allowing everyone to be a part of the process, this leadership style permits creativity and creative thinking. As mentioned earlier, with a multitude of brains working on any one particular project, the democratic leadership style challenges their creativity, thereby making them go beyond the usual to come up with innovative solutions. Such creativity is required and appreciated in any kind of setting. Finally, in such a setting, employees or group members learn to respect each others viewpoint, including that of the leader and vice versa. Since everyone is given equal opportunity, a conflict of interest is less likely when this leadership style is implemented.

Disadvantages

One of the biggest disadvantages of this leadership style as pointed out by many is the amount of time the entire decision-making process takes. Since a green signal is awaited from every member of the group, it can be a long-drawn process before any consensus is arrived at. Further, there are always chances that the manager or leader of the group may just encourage group participation and ask for their opinion on important matters, but may eventually do exactly what she/he thinks is appropriate. This means the democratic leadership style just a cover-up for autocratic leadership. While a conflict of interest may be less likely, it cannot be ruled out altogether. When there are so many minds at work, it is natural for opposing points of view to be placed on the table. At a time like this, it is the leader's job to ensure that the situation does not go out of hand. The leader will have to take a stand regarding which point of view or idea is more acceptable.

This participative leadership style is at its best when it is carefully executed. In such a situation, it can actually promote the growth of the organization as well as that of the employees. In simple terms, as the organization progresses, so do the employees who work towards this goal. In this process, the manager or leader learns how to take the right decision at the right time, but must ensure that the reason for siding with a particular decision is clearly explained. There is no need to be apologetic because there is a valid reason for the stand the manager is taking. A good way to make this leadership style work is to remain focused on the topic of discussion and not allow it to veer into personal or uncomfortable zones as it may sometimes. As a leader who follows such a style, you will learn to master the art of doing so over time. There are a lot of critics of the democratic leadership style, but these criticisms can be proven wrong if the style is executed intelligently and responsibly.