The Participative or Democratic Leader

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Hartzell

Sherri has taught college business and communication courses. She also holds three degrees including communications, business, educational leadership/technology.

The participative or democratic leader empowers employees by including them in the decision-making process, although sometimes at the cost of speed. Explore the strengths and weaknesses of the participative or democratic leader. Updated: 08/13/2021

The Concept of Sharing

Today it seems like people are sharing everything. It's a concept we learned early on when we had to share toys, rooms, food, even secrets with other kids - even though some of us hated it at the time. However, some of us enjoyed the process of sharing with others and still do as adults. I'm referring to managers who share with their subordinates.

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  • 0:05 Sharing
  • 0:33 The Democratic Leader
  • 3:10 Pablo's Example
  • 4:39 Lesson Summary
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The Participative or Democratic Leader

Those leaders who take the time to share with their employees and encourage their participation in the decision making process are accordingly referred to as participative leaders, or otherwise known as democratic leaders. The two terms are really one in the same and describe a leader who includes subordinates in the decision making process by encouraging employees to be creative, innovative and engaged in projects.

Much like how the United States is a democracy where the citizens are encouraged to vote, the democratic leader invites their subordinates to voice their insights and opinions relating to workplace affairs. In doing so, participative leaders believe that they gain a higher degree of understanding by including those people who are directly affected by the decisions being made.

In turn, subordinates are more involved and willing to work towards whatever decisions are being made due to the vested interest they have as a result of being a part of the decision making process. Employees tend to have a higher level of productivity and job satisfaction because they feel valued by their manager and that what they say or feel actually matters. The democratic leader essentially empowers the subordinates by recognizing the valuable contributions they can make during the decision making process. Employees become less competitive and more cooperative with one another, creating a welcoming organizational culture that people like to be a part of.

While there are many benefits of participative leadership, it is not without its drawbacks. Specifically, although it can be argued that two minds are better than one, it also takes more time to come to a decision.

Therefore, the decision making process can be extremely slow at times under the democratic leader, but inevitability leads to good results. The question becomes: is it worth the wait? There are certainly times where speed or efficiency is essential, making the democratic leadership style ineffective. Employees might also resent the participative leader who only listens to their ideas but never implements them. They want to be able to express their ideas and see them put into action, otherwise it can lead to low motivation, skepticism and feelings of betrayal. Even worse, the employees might not have the knowledge, skills or expertise to provide high quality input during decision making. The participative leadership style is best when implemented in the team environment where productivity and efficiency take the back seat to quality.

Pablo the Participative Leader

To better understand the participative leadership style, let's look at the following example of Pablo the night club manager at Pretty in Pink. As an organization, Pretty in Pink has a very relaxed and team-based culture. The day-to-day operations do not change much, however, once a month the owner asks Pablo and his team to come up with a way to promote the club and set it apart from the rest of the local clubs in the area. Next month is February and Pablo wants to decide what promotion or event they will have to promote at the club.

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