Published July 8, 2021
Will a Democratic Leadership Style Make You a Successful Leader?
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Considered to be the most effective leadership style in the modern workplace, democratic leadership thrives on open communication, creativity and competence to foster a highly engaged and productive workforce.
Your leadership style affects everything you do while in a position of seniority. From how you communicate with your staff to how you delegate work, you’re setting a precedent for how business operations should be actioned.
So, why is democratic leadership so well-regarded in the workplace? And, is it possible for you to develop the skill set required to become a great democratic leader in your organisation?
What is democratic leadership?
Democratic leaders lead from a position of mutual respect between themselves and their team members. Instead of adhering to a strict boss-subordinate hierarchy, the influence of the workplace, its projects, processes and culture are shared among all team members.
Democratic leaders tend to be very future-orientated and aim to ensure all employees understand and are invested in the organisation’s long-term goals and values. In other words, democratic leadership can be defined as:
“Distributing responsibility among the membership, empowering group members, and aiding the group’s decision-making process.”
What are the characteristics of democratic leaders?
The democratic leadership style, no matter the industry, is characterised by these core characteristics:
- Effective distribution of responsibility to team members
- Group members feel confident in communicating ideas, issues and concerns
- Creativity is encouraged and makes up a large part of day-to-day processes
- A more highly engaged team which often leads to high productivity
Effective democratic leadership relies on a strong foundation of both interpersonal skills and analytical decision-making. You’ll need to both encourage, listen to and value every employee’s input while keeping the organisation’s well-being at the forefront of every decision.
While ultimately holding the final say, this balancing act of sharing the decision-making process requires democratic leaders to have a diverse skill-set.
Democratic leadership skills
- A good grasp of language tools such as tone and clarity.
- They know when to ask questions to ensure understanding.
- They know when to listen.
Respect and honesty
- Democratic leaders need to consider and treat all employee opinions with the same level of significance.
- When an idea or statement needs to be dismissed, it is done so in a constructive way.
- To catalyse creative thought and flow, democratic leaders need to have a grasp on creative thought themselves.
Analytical thinking and fairness
- Coupled with enabling creativity, democratic leaders need to understand the functionality and reality of proposed ideas or solutions.
- Effective delegation of tasks to competent team members
- Democratic leaders need to self-assess their biases or weaknesses to minimise sway over the team (they need to avoid people-pleasing and favouritism).
- They should ask for consistent feedback from team members to better inform how they should move forward.
- Ability to direct and steer conversation so it remains relevant and constructive.
- Ability to negotiate with team members with both emotional and analytical intelligence.
Although all of these skills are central to fully capitalising on the benefits of good democratic leadership, it’s perfectly normal to not have all of them already under your belt. Some skills will be innate, while others you may have developed in a previous role, and some may be completely foreign. What’s important to know is that all of these skills can be taught and developed.
Discover if you naturally have a democratic leadership style
The advantages and disadvantages of democratic leadership
Like any leadership style, democratic leadership has both the good and the bad. Many of these advantages and disadvantages will shift and change in prominence depending on your team and how the individual members respond to this leadership style.
Some common examples are:
- New perspectives and ideas allow for projects or tasks to develop with more depth and creativity.
- Team members can feel encouraged and safe to grow in their strengths when they feel like they’re being supported, listened to and valued.
- Stronger teams are built with mutual trust and open communication, leading to quicker reactions to roadblocks and a smoother running of operations.
- Increased productivity as team members understand and share a common goal in their work, no matter their position.
- Can slow down decision-making processes, consequently, slowing down the whole workflow of the team.
- Can lead to more conflict in times of high stress or crisis.
- The actual issue at hand can be lost in the noise of multiple opinions, methods and conflicting voices.
- In some cases, unintentional favouritism can discourage all members from having a say in big decisions, fostering underlying feelings of frustration and bitterness if left unchecked.
Despite even the best of intentions, tough times and flaws in leadership are bound to happen, much like the disadvantages listed above. However, if you put in concentrated efforts into the right leadership education and training, you can develop the right skills to minimise and maybe even avoid some of these road hurdles.
Examples of when democratic leadership is most valuable in the workplace
When a project, pitch, or campaign ideation needs creativity and innovation.
Democratic leadership fosters a culture of “no idea is too big or too small to put forward”. Brainstorming sessions spearheaded by an inspiring democratic leader can lead to more out-of-the-box thinking that may lead to unexpected but brilliant results.
When your team is hungry for growth
Employees who are looking to grow within your organisation need to be given the opportunity to do so. As a leader, you can foster their growth and identify their strengths which could become invaluable assets. The democratic leadership style throws every employee into a position of self-directed work that keeps them feeling challenged and valued.
When your employees are more competent than you
Even the best, most impressive leaders can’t be experts in every facet of their industry. Democratic leaders know this and use their position of power to harness the expertise of their staff. Giving specialists on their team the agency to brainstorm and create without strict management boundaries often leads to more effective and efficient results.
Can I learn how to become a more democratic leader?
Everyone can learn how to adopt a more democratic leadership style in the workplace. Leadership rarely comes naturally to people; rather, it takes time, practice, patience and training to feel confident in such a position. You can overcome the challenges of this leadership style and hone the skills you need to become a great democratic leader through training and education.
No matter how senior, every leader should prioritise training to stay well-informed and prepared for the future of their industry’s landscape. So, whether you’re already in a position of leadership or you’re looking to take the next step, a leadership and management course will be invaluable to your career development.
Choosing to undergo training and education in the leadership and management space allows you to identify your strengths and weaknesses and minimise the skills gap you may have, making you a more effective leader.
Take the next step in your career and find your best training course!
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