What Is The Democratic Leadership Style? A Complete Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 15 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Managers may have different leadership styles and employees may function better under a certain type of leadership. While some styles of leadership allow employees to grow, others may be restrictive and can adversely affect an organisation's success. If you want to know about different types of leadership, learning about the democratic style can help you understand how it differs from other methods and determine whether your team can benefit from it. In this article, we discuss the meaning of democratic leadership, explore the characteristics of this leadership style and look at its advantages and disadvantages.

What Is Democratic Leadership?

To answer the question ‘What is democratic leadership?’, it is a leadership style in which a democratic leader includes their team members in the decision-making process. Every team member is free to give their suggestions, recommendations and feedback, which are then taken into consideration by the senior management. Professionals also refer to this style of leadership as participative leadership or shared leadership.

This style of leadership helps team members feel that they can contribute to the company's decisions directly, and it improves their morale. It is one of the most effective leadership styles, as it also helps improve employee productivity and job satisfaction. Organisations from different industries in both the private and public sectors can implement this leadership style to improve their organisational efficiency.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

Characteristics Of The Democratic Style Of Leadership

The following are some characteristics of the democratic style of leadership:

Collaborative

This leadership style is collaborative, and it encourages teamwork within an organisation. Democratic leaders want their teams to work together to solve problems and complete jobs. They may often assign tasks and projects to teams depending on their specialisation and interests to allow them to collaborate rather than work independently. This helps team members exchange ideas, learn from each other and network within the organisation. It fosters a sense of team spirit with their colleagues and helps them develop their interpersonal skills.

Engaging

The democratic style of leadership is engaging, as it encourages the involvement of employees in the decision-making process. Team members proactively contribute to the betterment of the company by offering feedback and suggestions. As the leader is often more involved with their teams and processes in this type of leadership, this increases employees’ engagement, leading to them putting more effort into the growth of the organisation.

Communicative

As this leadership style is collaborative, it is also communicative. In organisations that have democratic leaders, communication also happens vertically rather than only horizontally. Team members communicate with each other on projects, exchange ideas, offer suggestions and participate in activities. With this leadership style, it is also easier to communicate with the leader and the senior management, as they are more accessible. Though the leaders take the final decision, they encourage feedback from their teams.

Related: What Is The Importance Of Leadership In The Workplace?

Advantages And Disadvantages Of The Democratic Style Of Leadership

Like all other leadership styles, the democratic style of leadership has its advantages and disadvantages, and some are as follows:

Advantages

Here are several advantages of implementing the democratic style of leadership in the workplace:

Creates employee involvement

As the democratic style of leadership encourages participation from employees, it improves their involvement in company activities. It helps them feel that the leaders value their opinions and increases their level of contribution. As every employee gets a chance to give their suggestions, this encourages them to think of new ideas.

Improves problem solving

Involving team members in the decision-making and problem-solving processes encourages them to solve challenges on their own. This can help leaders gain different perspectives on existing issues. For example, if the company's revenue generation decreases or a new product receives less interest than the organisation expects, employees from the sales, marketing or finance teams may offer solutions based on their expertise. This can help companies find unidentified opportunities and create potential solutions.

Increases team collaboration

Democratic leaders encourage teamwork, as they understand the importance of collaboration for the progress of the company. They offer team-building opportunities and create situations for employees to work together rather than increasing internal competition. This helps team members to achieve business goals through their collective expertise, skills and knowledge.

Members work together to improve processes, deliver higher results and identify solutions to challenges. Democratic leadership also helps build a sense of team spirit within the organisation and develops collaborative skills among employees. Working in teams also assists employees in enhancing other related abilities, such as communication, interpersonal skills and conflict resolution. This has a good effect on employee job satisfaction, as it creates a positive work environment. Encouraging employees to work in teams can also help to improve workplace relationships between employees and increase their productivity.

Related: 11 Ways To Collaborate With Your Team (With Benefits)

Improves job satisfaction

As shared leadership encourages the participation of employees in company processes, it helps them feel valued in the organisation. It assists in creating an environment where team members are eager to make contributions and help advance the organisation's growth, as they get recognised for their efforts. When employees feel empowered within an organisation, they take ownership of their responsibilities, which improves their productivity and performance at work. Greater job satisfaction can help organisations keep their turnover low and retain their employees for longer.

Related: What Is Employee Satisfaction? (With Ways To Improve It)

Improves employee performance

When employees feel empowered at work, they can make valuable contributions to the company. This leadership style offers recognition to employees for their efforts and recognises their accomplishments. As team members feel happier at work, this impacts their performance positively. It can also improve employees’ commitment towards their work and the organisation.

Related: What Is Employee Retention? (And How To Increase It)

Disadvantages

Here are several disadvantages of the democratic style of leadership in the workplace:

Slows the pace of decision making

In participative leadership, the entire team takes part in the decision-making process, which may slow down the final choice and implementation. It may also take a lot of time to arrive at a consensus, as there can be many options and perspectives to consider. In this leadership style, the leader makes the final decision after considering all the inputs presented. This can often get delayed due to the time the leader requires to carefully evaluate the viability of each input. This can cause adverse effects on projects or activities that follow a strict timeline.

Related: What Is Decision Making? Definition, Types And Tips

Impacts employee morale

Every employee within a team may have different skills and expertise. Due to this, the quality and number of inputs from each member may be different. While some team members may have great ideas and continue to get recognition for each of their contributions, others may have fewer ideas. When employees see particular team members get recognised for their efforts repeatedly, there may be feelings of resentment within teams. This can also affect employee morale and self-esteem.

Related: Why Employee Motivation Is Important: A Complete Guide

Lacks structure

While the democratic leadership style offers a lot of freedom to employees to explore their problem-solving abilities, this leadership style lacks structure. Some employees may enjoy the freedom offered to them and perform their best, while others may thrive in a more controlled environment. There may be employees who require more supervision so that their managers and leaders have greater control over their tasks. These employees may feel demotivated and disoriented under a democratic style of leadership, which may also affect their performance and contributions to the organisation's growth.

Affects the quality of inputs

Participative leadership encourages team members to share inputs, suggestions and feedback. This can create a sense of compulsion where employees feel obligated to offer their input. They may also give their suggestions, assuming there may be negative consequences if they do not participate. This can lead to numerous inputs, but their quality may vary. As it is necessary for leaders to evaluate each suggestion individually, this can take up a lot of their time. Also, while there may be a lot of suggestions and ideas from employees to solve a problem, it may be difficult to implement any of them.

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