democratic leadership

Democratic leadership: Features, pros and cons 

Uncategorized 05 July 2024 6 Mins Read

What is Democratic leadership?  

What is Democratic leadership_

It is known by various names, is a popular leadership ideology. Many companies use it to build an edge over others.  

A democracy always follows the ‘people first’ policy. So do the democratic leaders.  

The democratic business leaders follow a collaborative and participative leadership style.  

As the whole team takes part in decision making, the level of consensus in democratic teams is higher. The process also emphasizes equality and freedom of thought in the group.  

Hence, active participation is the key to success of all booming democratic companies.  

Characteristics of Democratic Leadership 

Characteristics of Democratic Leadership

Democratic leaders emphasize three potential qualities- 

  • Strong collaboration with all associates  
  • Accommodating the main views of leaders in the decisions made 
  • Engagement with the team  
  • Brainstorming with the team through meetings and discussions  
  • Fostering the spirit of creativity and innovation by sprawling ideas across the team  

Best leadership approaches 

Let’s explore some approaches unique to democratic leaders.  

The prime goals of democratic leadership are stated above. In the same vein, we can evaluate the leadership approaches of democratic leaders.  

  • Collaboration helps in seeking unique ideas for your business needs. Democratic leaders encourage a free stream of ideas. Therefore, the teams under such leaders are more creative. They can candidly discuss and debate ideas and options. But it is the leader’s duty to avoid issues like biasness, favoritism and similar other sentiments.  
  • Regular feedback sharing is a common regime in democratic groups. Most democratic leaders ask for team members’ feedback voluntarily. Hence, you can try and test ideas, find resolve to conflicts and do much more, in this environment.  
  • Democratic leadership depends on the mutual loyalty of the leader and subordinates. If your leader values teamwork, he will guide and support all associates.  
  • Democratic groups are like a mirror. Active engagement and sharing of thoughts result in trust and dependability in the team. For instance, a democratic leader will not make the roster and disburse responsibilities immediately, when there’s a new project. He will sit down to discuss the project with them. Hence, he will understand the ideas of interests of each team member. After that he will assign work.  

Examples of democratic leadership  

Examples of democratic leadership

Democratic leadership is the commonest form of upfront leadership. Irrespective of whether it’s a business or not, this leadership style is quite famous.  

Experts say- democratic leaders are most creative too. Google followed this approach since day 1.  

Regular meetings and brainstorming are a prime component of Google’s strategy building. That speaks in favor of the potent democratic culture in the company.  

Instead of monitoring employees with an iron whip, Google adopted the culture of advising employees.  

In an advisory tone, there is scope of argument and debate too. 

Google is also reputed for seeking input from team members. So, the level of personal conflicts and biases in Google is less than other companies.  

Jack Dorsey of Twitter also had this approach. No doubt, Twitter propelled to become one of the most creative platforms in social media.  

You will also find democratic leaders in the sports domain. To name some, we can speak of Tommy Lasorda from L.A Dodgers. Owing to his democratic leadership, the team won 2 World Series Winners titles, two times.  

In fact, many American political leaders also rely on this approach.  

Benefits of democratic leadership 

Benefits of democratic leadership

Democratic leadership influences the working culture and workplace environment, big time.  

Firstly, democratic leaders can boost employee productivity. And that’s for a fact. High growth of employee productivity has been one of the obvious derivatives of democratic companies.  

Here, we are talking about both quantitative and qualitative productivity. To boost quality of work, the surge in creativity and engagement becomes instrumental.  

Experts are more concerned about the qualitative boost of productivity.  

If you need high production, it’s best to have authoritarian leaders around. They can streamline, regulate and micromanage each member. So, the team will give its best efforts. However, democratic teams are different.  

Collaboration, discussion and debate are complimentary in a democratic team, under all circumstances.  

Let’s see how it benefits the project/organization: 

  • Leads to a high inflow of diverse and creative ideas from all team members 
  • Helps the leaders to make informed decisions every time  
  • Turnover rate is low as employee are highly satisfied in a democratic organization  

Pitfalls of democratic leadership 

Pitfalls of democratic leadership

A team which thinks and moves together must endure many difficult ends. One of those is biases and subjugation of one team member by other, in a team.  

When employees have the upper hand, they leverage the average biases and prejudices. The weaker team members may not be able to raise their voices over the influential ones.  

It is difficult for democratic leaders to handle such crises in the team. Therefore, minority opinions can be easily overridden.  

A democratic team may breed communication gaps and confusion as well.  

The number of meetings and debates are more here. Certainly, it leads to many dead ends. At the same time, all team members share their ideas, notions and arguments in a democratic team. Consequently, there may be a handful of confusion in the team.  

How does it affect business? 

With blatant confusion and communication breakdown, it is difficult to gain consensus in a democratic team. Therefore, a democratic team may be accused of slow decision-making. 

Psychologists like Adam Grant believe that a democratic team is also susceptible to the HIPPO effect.  

 HiPPO (Highest paid person’s opinion) may matter the most in a democratic team. Experts say that there may be inexperienced or less skilled members on your team too.  

When they fail to give a credible input, their opinions also cease to matter. A few influential members dominate the meetings or brainstorming sessions. 

Overcoming the challenges  

Overcoming the challenges

Collaboration and team goodwill can solve any challenge. But it’s up to the democratic leaders to maneuver the team in the right direction. 

There is thin line of difference between democratic and laissez-faire leadership style. The latter is characterized by a highly delegated approach. Laissez-faire leaders don’t intervene in the team’s operations, decision making or consensus gaining drills.  

When a democratic leader becomes too lenient, they are as good as laissez-faire leaders.  

Who is a democratic leader? 

A democratic leader has a highly participative attitude. That does not imply that the associates have the upper hand in all decisions or leave it to them to set the team’s course of action.  

Rather, democratic leadership ensures that the whole team consents to the decisions being undertaken by the leader.  

If they can do this, the extent of confusion and internal biases will reduce manifold.  

Successful democratic leadership strategies  

We understand now that there are some parameters of successful democratic leadership. Let’s discuss those here.  

When building a democratic team, the leaders must set their focus on some basic niches.  

The first thing is to ensure that people in a team are evenly skilled and experienced. As a result, nobody can subjugate the other person.  

A democratic team needs ample time to overcome debates and brainstorm ideas. So, democratic leaders must ensure that there is plenty of time in hand.  

It’s your team, not your Facebook or Twitter feed. So, you can’t just listen to a few upfront ideas and opinions, to gauge the notion of the whole team.  

Rather, there should be a more symmetric process to collect feedback from everyone in the team. After all, that’s the true essence of democratic leadership.  

Frequently asked questions 

What is the best time to apply democratic leadership? 

It depends on the quality and efficiency of the people in your group. If you think that all team members are quite credible, democratic leadership can be your thing.  

What do I need to be a good democratic leader? 

You need to do two things. Firstly, don’t become too lenient and let people make decisions on your behalf.  

Secondly, avoid being biased. Listen till the last team member hasn’t finished.  

When won’t democratic leadership work? 

If you are amidst a contingency situation, it is better to have a top-down command. If you have a group of people with differing skill and experience levels, avoid the democratic leadership approach.  


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