What’s it: Democratic leadership is a type of leadership style that promotes member participation in the decision-making process. Leaders encourage members to participate in making decisions about their work and work-related issues. For this reason, sometimes, we also call this leadership style participative leadership.
This type of leader prefers to promote consensus decision making as a management policy. Researchers say democratic leadership is one of the most effective leadership styles. Working groups with democratic leaders tend to be more flexible, innovative, and highly motivated than authoritarian or laissez-faire leaders. As a result, it leads to increased morale and productivity of group members.
Characteristics of democratic leadership
There are several key characteristics of democratic leaders. They are as follows:
Participation and collaboration. Democratic leadership encourages members to take a more participatory role in the decision-making process. Also, this environment encourages individual honesty, fairness, competence, and courage in expressing ideas.
Members are allowed to participate. They can also exchange ideas more freely. Discussion is often a way to exchange ideas.
Ideas and opinions. The leader encourages members to share ideas and opinions. Members can speak up more freely. However, the leader remains in control of the final decision.
Creativity. The leader highly values and encourages the creativity of group members. Such an environment is essential in the problem-solving process and for finding the best alternatives for decision making.
Empowerment. Leaders delegate authority and empower their subordinates.
Where a democratic leadership style is best
Democratic leadership depends on the employees’ competence, knowledge, and strength. This leadership style is likely suitable in an environment where employees are skilled, experienced, and creative. Leaders can harness the talents and individual strengths of their employees for company success.
When subordinates have become highly independent and skilled, democratic leaders can focus on more vital aspects. The greater participation of subordinates ultimately contributes to innovation and problem solving within the company.
However, when roles are unclear and time is limited, this typical leadership can lead to unfinished projects or even failure. The reason is, not all members have the same knowledge, skills, and thoughts. Some may not like this type of leadership either.
Furthermore, in carrying out their functions, democratic leaders need good communication skills. They must be able to explain the problem clearly and understand the responses from their subordinates.
Advantages of democratic leadership
Here are some of the positives of democratic leadership:
First, democratic leaders are more respected. Members’ respect for them is not based on power, authority, or fear but on trust, respect, and inspiration.
Second, members feel they have a role and contribute to problem-solving and strategic decisions. They are motivated because they feel their opinions and input are valued. That creates a sense of belonging, increases their morale and productivity.
Third, democratic leadership can lead to better ideas and more creative solutions to problems. Subordinates have many contributions and can provide valuable work experience to deal with new situations or problems. A collaborative environment and two-way communication ultimately support to produce a more informed solution in decision making.
Fourth, employees are motivated to improve their professional skills. They feel they can influence their promotional potential by contributing more to the company. Due to this fact, they are working harder to take a more significant role by increasing their competence.
Weaknesses of democratic leadership
Democratic leadership has several weaknesses. So, not all conditions are right for this leadership style. The following are some of the weaknesses of democratic leadership.
First, not all ideas and ideas from subordinates are of quality. It depends on their knowledge and expertise. Sometimes, they provide ideas or insights for personal gain rather than a group or company gain.
Second, when the members’ ideas with vested interests are not considered, this can reduce his satisfaction and morale. And this dissatisfaction can also spread to other members who have similar thoughts.
Third, decision making takes longer. Greater involvement in the decision-making process generates more ideas. Decision making takes time and costs to reach a consensus. Also, the leader must select the best ideas or input and eliminate irrelevant ones.
For those reasons, this leadership is not suitable when company operations require urgent decisions. During difficult times such as economic crises or during restructuring, they are also less effective.
Fourth, conflicts of interest often arise. Employees may pursue personal gain rather than group gain. That increases the chance of disagreement between them during the discussion process. Ultimately, such conditions create conflict and hurt the day-to-day operations of the company.