What Is Participative Leadership? (With Types And Tips)

Updated 17 August 2023

Effective leadership can be essential for a successful business. Participative leadership is one of many styles and types of leadership that may be employed. Learning about this style of management and engagement can help you decide if it might benefit an organisation. In this article, we answer the question, 'What is participative leadership?', describe the four types, provide tips for promoting this leadership style within an organisation and explain its advantages and disadvantages.

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What Is Participative Leadership?

The answer to 'What is participative leadership?' is that it is a style of leadership in which all members of the organisation work together to make decisions. Participative leadership is also known as democratic leadership, as management teams encourage all employees to participate. For instance, if a company executive is a participative leader, they hope to involve all members of an organisation to help make decisions. Participative leadership can be most successful in organisations or companies that have defined roles requiring little management or oversight, such as universities, technology companies or construction firms.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

Types Of Participative Leadership

There are four main types of participative leadership:

Collective participative leadership

In collective participative leadership, all responsibility falls equally on the group. The leader helps facilitate, but all group members are responsible for the process and outcome. It is expected that the majority of the group agree to proceed with a decision. Employees work together to decide on changes before establishing new processes or policies.

Consensus participative leadership

In consensus participative leadership, the leader does not have additional power over other group members and works exclusively as a facilitator. To reach a decision, it is expected that all members of the organisation agree. This means that the goal or decision might have amendments or negotiations until all parties can agree. Companies often use individual votes to make decisions.

Related: Consultative Leadership: Definition, Benefits And Components

Democratic participative leadership

In democratic participative leadership, the leader has more power than the group. The group provides ideas and suggestions, and voting may occur on the outcome, but the leader has the final decision on what action to take. Leaders may gather information through surveys or interviews and decide what changes an organisation might make.

Autocratic participative leadership

Autocratic participative leadership is like democratic participative leadership, but the leader holds more power than in a democratic style. There is less precedence on the group's ideas and more on the leader. Even if employees provide unique inputs, the leader can still override opinions with their own decisions.

Related: A Guide To 10 Effective Management Styles (With Examples)

Tips For Encouraging Participative Leadership At Work

Here are some tips you can use to promote this leadership style within an organisation:

Promote accountability

Holding employees accountable can encourage them to voice their individual opinions and develop their leadership skills. Consider building participation into regular check-ins or performance reviews to increase accountability. When employees are answerable, they are more likely to take initiative to ensure that tasks and projects are getting completed on time and in line with requirements.

Create sharing spaces

You might also create virtual message boards or platforms where employees can share their thoughts regularly. This can let teams send ideas as they get them and let employees respond to each other's suggestions. This way, management gets access to the ideas of all employees, and all the members of a team get an opportunity to share their ideas with others. The management can then decide which ideas to discuss in more detail and which ones to implement directly.

Related: What Is Behavioural Theory Of Leadership? (With Types)

Hold regular meetings

You can hold regular meetings with teams and individuals to provide employees with the opportunity to share their opinions and suggestions. This can help build trust and boost morale through shared responsibility and make employees feel they are an integral part of the team and the decision-making process. Such meetings can also be an avenue where fresh ideas come up, which may have otherwise not been the case.

Related: How To Become A Leader: A Guide (With Leadership Styles)

Advantages Of Participative Leadership

Participative leadership can offer many advantages for an organisation's leadership and group members. Some of these are:

Improves morale

Group members who feel they are part of a team can have higher morale than if they think they have limited influence. Participative leadership provides a deeper feeling of community to lower-level group members. This may create a more positive work environment where employees have higher morale and more motivation. It can also help increase employee retention for highly skilled employees. This, in turn, helps organisations reduce the costs of hiring new employees frequently.

Related: 7 Leadership Theories For Career Growth

Increases engagement

Members of the organisation may feel empowered when they participate in high-level decision-making. They can be more likely to implement changes if they are part of the decision-making process. Employees may also feel more confident in a company's decisions or changes if they can provide their input. This typically improves overall engagement in the changes that take place in the organisation and leads to a smoother implementation of new ideas and policies.

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

Encourages independence

Employees may require less intense management if they participate in the decision-making for new processes and policies. Since they were a part of the process, they are going to already know what they are supposed to do and how to do it. For instance, if a company decides on a new system, employees might know how to use it and how it might fit into their current workflows.

Related: Change Leadership Vs Change Management (With Pros And Cons)

Fosters collaboration

By introducing many voices and ideas to the discussion, leadership is more likely to receive creative and inventive thinking. Teams may solve problems in ways leadership never anticipated with input from all levels of the organisation. As each person's thoughts are unique, each employee can also learn from others within an organisation through this collaboration.

Disadvantages Of Participative Leadership

There can also be disadvantages to participative leadership for leaders, group members and the entire organisation. These include the following :

Potential pressures

Lower-level group members may feel social pressure to conform to the group's majority or superiors' desires. This may make it hard to reach a truly democratic decision. For instance, a lower-level employee might think that management expects them to agree with their decisions for job security. To help with this, you might have anonymous surveys or conversations with employees to ensure they can voice their opinions confidently and with honesty. This also helps them feel valued and that their input matters.

Slower decision-making

The participative leadership style can take a long time to implement. Organising a large group, obtaining ideas and feedback, discussing possible courses of action and then communicating the decision can be lengthy. To help with this, consider establishing clear schedules and allotted times for votes or discussions for new decisions.

Related: A Complete Guide To Management Theories (With 7 Examples)

Lack of knowledge-based decisions

Not everyone in the organisation may have the background or knowledge necessary to participate productively in a decision-making conversation. For instance, people in the marketing department may be providing their input in the sales department's decisions, where they may not have sufficient knowledge to participate meaningfully. Consider different styles, such as the democratic participative style, to ensure that a knowledgeable leader can decide if the decision is most effective for the organisation.

Related: What Are The Best Corporate Certifications To Get The Job?

Increased costs

Due to the amount of time the participative leadership style can take, it can have a high cost. Group members can lose time with their daily responsibilities during these decision-making processes. Consider evaluating your assignment allocation and shifts to ensure enough coverage to meet business goals while having collaborative conversations.

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