Leadership Style: Democratic


Affiliative Leadership - Six Styles of Emotional Leadership

Daniel Goleman’s book, Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence discusses the six leadership styles leaders can take to ensure a healthy working environment.

An effective leader has the versatility to implement all six leadership styles in different situations. The leadership styles Goleman outlined in his book are authoritative, democraticaffiliative, pacesetting, commanding, and coaching leader.

In this article, we will focus on the authoritative leadership style.

In this article, we will focus on the democratic leadership style.

Table of Contents

What is the Democratic Leadership Style?

Democratic leadership allows all team members to have buy-in on significant decisions. Not only can all employees offer ideas and suggestions as they learn where they are needed, but democratic leadership also invites employees to have a say in the decision-making process. 

Every voice gets heard when possible, and employees have the chance to show their unique strengths and insights. Ultimately, a democratic leader will make the decision. Still, the opinions of other workers will be taken into account, rather than the leader alone making a decision and simply expecting everyone else to fall in line. 

The Pros and Cons of Democratic Leadership

Democratic leadership offers numerous advantages that often considerably outweigh any potential disadvantages of this leadership style. However, before determining if democratic leadership is an effective strategy for your needs, you must consider the potential cons. 

Advantages of Democratic Leadership

The benefits of democratic leadership include:

  • Employees often feel more ownership over the company and their roles within it. 
  • Employees feel more valued.
  • Democratic leadership encourages a more creative approach from employees, raising innovation throughout the company.
  • Employees are often highly engaged when they are asked to engage in decision-making. 
  • Your team will be more collaborative, which means that you may have different insights and perspectives going into the decision-making process—and reach better decisions as a result.

Democratic leadership can help you take full advantage of your team’s strengths. An effective democratic leader can take the input from team members who come from dramatically different perspectives and use that information to help them build a stronger team and company as a whole. 

Disadvantages of Democratic Leadership

While democratic leadership has numerous advantages, it is not without its challenges. 

  • Democratic strategies may slow down the decision-making process, which means it may not be appropriate for decisions that have to be made on the fly. 
  • Democratic leadership does not work well if employees do not have the necessary skills and knowledge to weigh those decisions. 
  • Team members have to offer their opinions and expertise for democratic leadership to work effectively. If they fear repercussions or feel that their insights will not be considered, it can be harder to get employee buy-in. 
  • Democratic leadership may make it difficult to reach a consensus on complex issues, and when decisions go against the employee, they may become frustrated or disengaged. 

How is Democratic Leadership Different?

The style of a democratic leader is primarily different because it focuses heavily on taking employee needs and opinions into consideration as you build your decision-making strategy.

In many traditional management styles, the manager is the final authority. The manager’s decision goes, even when the manager does not necessarily have all the information or insight necessary to make a decision. Managers might consult those they feel have insight or information that can help them, but they have an ultimate say and do not have to wait for others’ opinions to make a decision.

Democratic leadership, on the other hand, requires managers to seek input and opinions from each member of their team to reach more effective resolutions and decisions. 

How Democratic Management Empowers Employees

Democratic management puts a great deal of the power related to many decisions directly in your employees’ hands. While the manager or leader has the final say in any decision, employees can share their opinions and insights.

Employees are more encouraged to develop their skills

Employees are more likely to develop those vital skills because they know that their skills and contributions will be recognized. They know that their managers will recognize those achievements and reward them, so they’re less likely to become discouraged or unwilling to continue their efforts. 

Employees become a vital part of the process.

Employees often have insights and information that management team members do not. They’re the ones on the floor, directly interacting with customers or taking care of critical tasks. Frequently, they know their equipment, their customers, or their specific jobs better than the management team does. 

With democratic leaders, employees feel like a vital part of the decision-making process, making them more likely to share that information. 

When to Use Democratic Management

Democratic management is a highly effective technique, but it is generally more effective under some circumstances than others. Democratic management is most effective when:

You have a highly skilled team

For democratic management to work effectively, you need a highly skilled team that understands their jobs, roles, and place in the industry. Employees who have a poor overall understanding of their roles or what your company is trying to accomplish may have a hard time providing those vital insights.

You work in a creative environment

Democratic management is highly effective in a creative environment with highly creative team members. In a creative environment, team members are more likely to have their ideas and be eager to put them forward. Not only that, but creative environments also thrive when everyone works together to achieve the final goal.

Employees put forth input based on the company’s needs, not on personal vendettas

If you have an unprofessional environment where employees regularly work against one another rather than working in the company’s best interests, you may have a hard time implementing a democratic leadership style. 

How to Become a Democratic Leader

Are you ready to start implementing democratic leadership styles in your workplace? Try some of these strategies.

  • Get in the habit of holding brainstorming sessions.
  • Create an open avenue of communication, and reward employees for taking advantage of it. Do not punish employees for making suggestions.
  • Implement suggestions made by your employees.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Employees who see that their coworkers are being recognized are more likely to forward their ideas.
  • Invite employee input when significant decisions are needed. 
  • Create a dialogue, not a top-down communication style. 

As a democratic leader, communication is critical. You may need to share information about why you make the specific decisions rather than simply expecting employees to fall in line. However, through this style, you will notice much more comprehensive overall employee engagement and involvement.